From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
September 11 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Our gospel acclamation from 2 Corinthians is astounding when we consider the meaning of what St. Paul is telling us. And even though we don’t often consider it, the evidence of what he is saying is present before our eyes every time we come to celebrate the Mass. Above the altar the crucifix reminds us of the overwhelming love that is God, shown forth in the ultimate sacrifice and mercy that is our salvation, given to us freely even though it is totally unearned. At the altar itself Christ makes himself present and available in the most intimate way through the Eucharist where he joins himself to us – body and blood, soul and divinity! This gift of love that is God himself is ever present and always available to us NO MATTER WHAT we have done. We can never lose it. It only slips away when we chose not to take it through our own free will.
Our readings reinforce for us that throughout history God has always shown mercy – no matter the sin or depravity. He is a God of renewed opportunity and new beginnings. Despite turning their backs completely to God, and creating false Gods even as Moses was meeting with God himself, God showed mercy to the people of Moses and offered new beginnings. St. Paul was a blasphemer and persecutor of Christians, and still God not only gave him a new beginning – but molded him into the greatest evangelizer of all time. In the gospel, Jesus shares a parable that gives three examples of rejoicing over that which was lost but is now found. God NEVER GIVES UP on us! His mercy is greater than any sin we can possibly commit. He challenges us to not focus on the errors of the past but rather on the victories of today.
Pope St. John XXIII had a personal motto that he took with him to the papacy and shared with the rest of the world. His motto was simple: “Now I begin!” He sought forgiveness for the past each day. He renewed his personal life every day. He knew – and we should too – that God rejoices every time we begin anew, for God is a God of renewed opportunity and new beginnings! God embraces us with his overflowing love and mercy.
If God shows such immense mercy, how can we do any less? Toward ourselves or others? We should rejoice when someone finds their way forward and not judge them or condemn them for their past. And we should recognize that each person has great worth. God calls us to embrace each person for their true value as a reflection of God – just as He embraces each of us with overflowing love and mercy.
As Vincentians, we come face to face every day with individuals who are trying desperately to ‘find their way home.’ We should embrace them with total love and mercy, devoid of judgment of decisions they have made in the past. We work to seek out the poor that we might help them to move forward and that we might rejoice with them. We see in them the presence of God and the hope of His love. We should approach our work with great humility, recognizing that it is God who both graces us with the capacity to help, and graces those we help with the capacity to have hope. He gives us the opportunity to minister to and rejoice with our brothers and sisters one at a time. He calls us to help each one to begin again. How well do I embrace the mercy and forgiveness God shows to me? How well do I offer it to others?
Lord Jesus, Give me the passion to embrace each person I encounter in love and mercy, recognizing your presence within each individual. Give me the grace to embrace them and help them to begin anew. Give me the humility to set aside my judgments and sinful ways, to turn toward you, and to begin again. We pray all of this in your name. Amen