September 11, 2016
by Rev. Richard Gabuzda
The Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 132

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
Luke 15:1-32

Praying Ordinary Time

Mission with a Passion

We have become quite familiar with “mission statements” which are produced by institutions, both secular and religious. These statements proclaim the purpose of the institution, what they are about, what they’re supposed to do.  But all of us know that those who fulfill that mission can do so in a variety of ways, with a variety of motivations.  For instance, we are familiar with the person in customer service or the teacher in the classroom who fulfills his or her task adequately, perhaps even well.  But we also know that when the person in customer service or in the classroom carries out the mission with a personal passion and even with joy, it makes all the difference in the world to us the recipients.

The first letter to Timothy today unveils for us what we might refer to as Jesus’ mission statement: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  This is the purpose of his life, his reason for taking on our human flesh and living our life, the reason for his life’s work and, most especially, his death and resurrection – to save sinners!  But how can we know his motivation, the disposition of his heart and the heart of his Father, in the carrying out of this mission?  The parables presented in the gospel today answer that question.

Each parable in its own way reveals the very heart of God, the passion of God seen in Jesus and directed toward sinners.  The diligent searching of the shepherd for the lost sheep, the relentless looking of the woman for the lost coin find their greatest expression in the rejoicing that takes place at their finding.  This passionate searching and above all the rejoicing—this, Jesus says, is the passion and the rejoicing in the heart of his Father in regard to sinners. And as if to leave no doubt in our minds, the eloquent Parable of the Prodigal Son reveals the One who saves sinners, who waits patiently and rejoices at the return of those who have gone astray.

The scriptures invite us to imagine that we are the object of God’s search, that we are the recipients of the gaze of that love such as we picture on the face of the father in the parable.  We are invited to the embrace the truth that we are the source of God’s joy, the cause of that joy, when we allow ourselves to be found.  What is it like for us to enter into that imaginative process?  What do we feel and think as we allow ourselves to be in that gaze?  The answer to those questions makes all the difference in the world!

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