Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

by | Sep 8, 2022

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The readings from this reflection: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19; 1Timothy 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32

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If we are looking for a theme that runs throughout the readings on this Sunday, we can find it proclaimed in the Alleluia verse taken from 2 Corinthians 5:19. In all of the Scripture passages on this day, we see so clearly that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

In the first reading, as Moses was leading the people of Israel away from Egypt, they so quickly lost sight of the power of God who had set them free. They began to worship a calf, calling an idol their “God.” The one, true God tells Moses, “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.”

Moses pleads on behalf of his people, and God hears his prayer. God does not punish his people for their sin, although they did deserve to be punished. But, “God was reconciling the world to himself.”

In the Gospel passage, St. Luke tells the famous parable that we all know so well – the story of the “prodigal son.” In this passage, Jesus relays the story of a young man who had turned his heart away from his father to the point that he demanded “the share of your estate that should come to me.” This division of the father’s wealth should happen only when he has died. But, to this youngest son, the father was essentially already dead.

So, the father divided his estate among the younger son and his older brother. But, the younger son left home and spent every dime that he had inherited until he had nothing left.

In his extreme poverty, the younger son decided to return to his father and to beg him to accept him, not as his son, but as one of his many hired workers.

But, the father immediately welcomes his lost son home. When the older son sees how his brother is treated by his father, he becomes angry at his father. The father then brings peace to his whole house by seeking mercy for his older son, and reminding him that his younger brother, “Was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

These two Scriptural passages can easily hit home with us, because we all have family members, friends, or co-workers that have also turned away from God, or worship the idols that are so common and accepted in our world today, or who have left their family aside. We see people in our own lives who are spiritually “dead,” or who have chosen other things to take the place of God, as the Israelites had done in the desert.

Yet, when we hear today’s second reading proclaimed from the First Book of Timothy, the story becomes even more personal to us.

MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION

In this passage, we hear St. Paul tell us about his own life. Here is the story of St. Paul the Apostle, who is considered the greatest preacher in the history of the Church, who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles and spread the message of Christ more widely into the world.

Here is the personal witness of St. Paul, who says to us, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.”

This is St. Paul – who was once known as Saul. Saul was the Pharisee who presided over the martyrdom of the first Christian who laid down his life for Christ, St. Stephen. Saul was the man on his way to Damascus to arrest all of the Christians in the city when he was struck down by Christ himself, and heard the voice of Jesus asking him, “Why are you persecuting me?”

The conversion of Saul, who became St. Paul, literally shocked the entire Christian community at that time. His conversion changed St. Paul’s view of life, too. And so he says, “Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.”

It happens every now and again that each of us runs into a young man who could well be called to become a good priest immersed in the Heart of Christ, and who could lead others on the path of sanctity as we move through this passing world. How often they resist the call to pursue a possible vocation simply because they do not feel worthy to follow Christ. The fact is that none of us are worthy to follow Christ. Hopefully none of us have the past reputation of Saul. But all of us can say in all honesty with St. Paul, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am the foremost.”

These words of St. Paul are humbling. They give me hope as a priest, someone who is called by Christ to do what he asks of me to serve his Church. I am called to be not only one who is reconciled by Christ, but also one who has been given the power of Jesus to be the minister of reconciliation in the confessional – to impart the power of the cross on the prodigal sons and daughters who come home and are not afraid to say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven.”

How I hope—God willing —that one day soon we will see lines forming in front of every confessional. How this world would be transformed, just to see each person return once again to the mercy of God. What a manifestation of joy it would be to see that all hearts can understand this timeless proclamation that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting TO US the message of reconciliation.”

Fr. Eftink is pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Advance, MO. He is also the diocesan Director of the Society for the Propagation