Our second reading from today’s Gospel reminds us that one of our great saints, St Paul, may well have been deemed a terrorist in his day. He persecuted and killed Christians before his conversion and he notes that in today’s selection:
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Of these I am the foremost.
I wonder if there may be some great saints in the making who are out there persecuting the religion of others. Saints, in general, don’t get it. Fr. John Cusick, the great founder of Theology on Tap, once reminded me that the disciples are some of the greatest screw ups of all time.
“If you want to be a disciple, read everything the twelve do…and then do the opposite!”
I wonder too if writing off those who perform horrible atrocities isn’t a smack in the face of God. Don’t we believe that God can do anything? Don’t we believe that God can turn hatred into love? And can’t we believe, that maybe, we can be the conduits of bringing that love into the world?
That’s what our gospel stories remind all of us about today.
We have three parables today, all with the same root: the lost. We have a lost sheep, a lost coin and most importantly, a lost son. Who knows what evil the son engaged in while he was away? But the Father welcomed him home with open arms after a long time of praying that his son would return. How long did he wait? Who knows, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight. Who long did the shepherd look for that lost sheep? Who knows, but when he returned he still rejoiced and he then probably had 20 more to gather back to the flock. A woman finding a lost coin could have a number of implications. After all, women were property, they had nothing of their own and relied a men for their sustenance. What little funds they had probably had to stretch a long way. So a lost coin may indeed have been the only coin they had. Imagine the rejoicing!
The truth is that there are a lot of lost people out there. Many of you might have that wayward son or daughter who you pray for night and day. You might know someone with mental illness who refuses to get treatment or who is addicted to drugs or alcohol? And there are others who simply want nothing to do with Catholicism or religion of any kind.
Maybe we’re the ones who are lost ourselves? I know I put other things ahead of those I love. I know I can be selfish and want things to happen instantly, well before they are supposed to. I’m not a very patient person by nature and that impatience gets me into a lot of trouble.
And that’s true of most of us when it comes to thinking about the climate of today’s world. We want to live in peace, but how many of us are really willing to wait for that peace and to do the work that comes with striving for reconciliation? How long can we wait for even one terrorist to admit that violence is simply evil.
Our first reading tells us that God was at the point of eliminating the people of Israel. But Moses pleaded and worked to bring the people back to God. And that even took him a long time. In fact he broke the first tablets of commandments in anger when he saw the Golden Calf that they built and worshipped. There was even some violence in the ensuing days. Moses wasn’t exactly patient.
What keeps us from working for peace? What keeps us from making peace with people in our own families, never mind, the rest of the world that seems to be far too lost for reconciliation to ever occur?
Today, let us work for reconciliation in whatever way God may call us. This weekend we remember that horrible day when evil seemed to win. But then our own resolve as a country to continue to strive for peace, united us as a country. May that same spirit, bring us to peaceful resolutions within our own hearts that often need healing, within our divided communities and even with those who hate us. May we be confident that one day, God will bring us all into the peace that only God can offer.