In our first reading today I am reminded of St. John Paul II’s catechesis, Theology of the Body, and how far we have fallen from God’s beautiful, original plan for us. Here in the Book of Exodus 32 we saw God’s Chosen People becoming depraved with sins of idolatry, lust, and pride. They become a “stiff-necked people” due to their prideful, rebellious hearts. St. John Paul II calls this result of Original Sin, historical man, but this is not who we were meant to be by God’s original design for us. We were meant to be as, he called original man, beautiful with original holiness, solitude, innocence, and unity. God’s Chosen People, Israel “have become depraved” and rebellious, not trusting in the good God who saved them from enslavement in the hands of Pharaoh. Now they have chosen a different enslavement, even worse, the enslavement to sin and vice.
Let’s look at God’s response to his disobedient, rebellious little children. Sometimes in our lives when we are acting badly as children, one parent will say to the other parent: “your son” or “your daughter” has done this or that. It may sound amusing or be meant to be a joke, but if you’re a young child it isn’t funny at all. It could be devastating to hear one you love, verbally disown you. But, that’s exactly what Yahweh does here with His chosen people. He has “had enough” and is willing to hand His people over to Moses. That sounds very different from what He said in Exodus 3:7, 10; 5:1; 6:7; 7:4 and others when He refers to them as “My people.” What happened? Like in Malachi 2:8 which describes the corruption in the Levitical priesthood, this is a National Apostasy by most of the people of Israel right at the base of God’s mountain, in His very site! They have become “stiff-necked, stubborn and resistant to the gentle, loving yoke of God in stubborn defiance.” They have developed a prideful, arrogant heart. This is opposite of the merciful, gentle, and loving heart of Yahweh.
In this Year of Mercy, the Church shows us the Divine Mercy of Yahweh because He treated them mercifully by allowing and responding to Moses intercession for His people. Aaron lessened the severity of the apostasy somewhat by fashioning only one golden calf, rather than “gods” or several the people asked for and by and proclaiming, “tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord” in verse 5. The people of Israel forgot who they were, who God is, what He has done for them and why what they did was such an abomination in His sight. Yet, being a loving merciful Father, He pitied them and had mercy on them by not allowing His blazing wrath to consume them. He will do the same for us if we live the Responsorial Psalm whose verse is taken from Luke 15:18: “I will rise and go to my Father.” When was the last time you rose and went to confession to beg God’s forgiveness for your sins? St. Paul in the Second Reading from 1 Timothy 1:12-17, calls himself a “blasphemer, persecutor and arrogant.” A prideful, arrogant heart is one that uses for the sake of oneself. Remember: things are to be used, people are to be loved. One affect of original sin is that we have a tendency to grasp or use others for my sake. But, this is not love. Love is sacrificial, not of the other but myself. God sacrificed Himself for us, not vice-versa. St. Paul describes God’s heart as merciful, meaning virginal. What does a virginal heart look like? It is a heart that loves the other for the sake of the other, without expecting anything in return. It is a heart that is open, receptive, willing to follow the Father’s will, vulnerable, transparent, docile (willing to be taught and corrected), authentic and humble.
Today’s Gospel provides us with three parables for the “long version” and two for the “short version.” I would like to concentrate on the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin. Once again the “theme” is Mercy. The shepherd goes out of his way to find this “lost sheep” even though he has plenty more sheep. The sheep naturally represent us and the importance and infinite value of every human person based on their God-given dignity. This is because God in His image, creates us. Notice when the shepherd finds the “lost sheep” he has a party with his friends and neighbors. He tells them to “rejoice” just like the Angel Gabriel said to Mary at the Annunciation. The lost sheep is not only each individual person, but also all Israel and all of us.
The Parable of the Lost Coin is only three verses long, but very powerful because it shows the extent to which God will sweep the world to try to “find us.” The coin was ten drachmas or one day’s wage. The owner “lite a lamp” and “swept the house searching carefully.” Why? Yes, a day’s wage is a lot, but really, isn’t this a bit extreme? No, not if you know the virginal heart of the Father and how He sees the Presence of the Son within us gazing upon us and hence, He sees our immense worth. He knows that while we are broken and sinful (historical man), that isn’t who we are. We are not the sum of our sins and vices. We are redeemed (redeemed man) and Christ paid a high price for us – His Precious Blood. Both of these owners had parties and celebrated with great joy and rejoicing when they found their treasure, small in the eyes of today’s world, but a vast treasure in the Father’s eyes. Gaze upon the Father and allow Him to gaze upon you, a beautiful treasure in His loving, merciful eyes. Amen.
To Download a PDF Version of this Homily, Click Here: 24th Sunday OT Year C
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joined the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three-year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.