[NOTE: The readings, gospel, and propers for this day are taken from the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time since the 15th Sunday’s gospel would be repeated on the Solemnity of Brotherly Love]

Trust in Jesus.

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.

I am so thankful that we have joined together in worship this Sunday as we once again celebrate the confidence we have in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last week we began celebrating that confidence. If we trust in Jesus and take the risks He prompts us to venture, all turns out well (even if it seemingly doesn’t).

You see, our faith-based trust is not about specific accomplishment as we see it, but about walking the gospel path Jesus laid out. We repent of sin, we believe in Him, we join in worship and fellowship, and we proclaim Jesus in every aspect of our lives. In doing so all outcomes in Jesus are the best. Trusting in Jesus gives us ultimate victory, a place of honor in the Father’s house.

But what happens if we fail to live up to God’s call, to Jesus’ gospel, to the Holy Spirit’s promptings?

Today’s reading and gospel tell us of a seeing and seeking God whose heart, i.e., His whole self, longs to embrace us and forgive us for as St. Paul says – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – we who fail from time to time.

In Exodus, Israel rebels and rejects God for a cold metal statue of nothing. The God Who saves was rebuffed. The God Who stretched out His mighty arm in power to free and save His people was rejected for depravity. He saw it all, it was all done right in front of His holy mountain, right at His front door. Knowing God’s holiness and justice must be satisfied, Moses pleads for his people and God relents of the punishment they deserved. His seeking heart of compassion and mercy prevails.

St. Paul knew God’s seeing and seeking heart so well. In writing to the Church at Colossae, he recalls all the wrong he had done, his life as a blasphemer and a persecutor, his very arrogance that separated him from God. In recalling it all Paul shows us the reality of God’s mercy made fully evident in Jesus who called him out of sin, who freed him by grace alone, and made him His minister.

Jesus’ parables today give us an image of the seeking and seeing God. He is the caring shepherd in search of the lost lamb. He seeks the lost coin. In both cases the work of seeking and seeing is consistent, it does not stop because God does not stop. 

As with the prodigal son, and his father, again a symbol of our Father, we experience the constancy of the Father. He awaits our trust, our step toward Him, our testimony of confidence in His abundance, and our effort to work again for His Kingdom.

Made whole.

He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.

Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah had written about centuries before. Isaiah writes about a ‘bruised reed.’ and a ‘smoldering wick.’ Jesus came, not to destroy the reed or put out the wick, but to take brokenness and smoldering away. Jesus has healed and re-ignited us, has brought us into the Kingdom, into lives vastly differently.

As we journey through this Lenten season, we reflect and act on our call to be vastly different. We look at our inward selves and our outward actions and reform them through more ardent prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. We come to really connect with the fact that those in the Kingdom live like this year-round, not just during Lent.

Today, Jesus presents us with a perfect example of someone who is bruised and smoldering, the youngest son of a very generous father. How is he made vastly different?

There are two key elements in Jesus’ parable, the first being the self-imposed bruising of the son. This is the way sin works for us too. 

The son, not content in the father’s house and service wants ‘what is his,’ and takes off with every intent of harming himself. 

The son did not outwardly say: I am going to go hurt myself. Certainly, he thought he was getting his way with what was his – and that very self-centeredness was at the root of his many sins. The rejection of the father’s house, the partying and the prostitutes were the expression of his self-centered life. It was the way he pulled himself out of the kingdom and put himself in the world. He bruised himself and he did it hard, full speed.

The second key is how the son was changed, healed, and reconciled.

Many have stated that the moment of turn around by the son, repentance, a change in direction back to the kingdom and away from himself and the world was his getting up amid the swine – as Jesus says: he came to his senses.  But not so fast – he was still self-centered, thinking about his father’s servants and food.  Something greater had to change within him, his life had to be made vastly different by something more powerful than just return and food.

The great change in the son was the moment of forgiveness, of full welcome back. This really spoke to his selfish heart and taught him – there is another way to live. There is a vastly different way – that of the father who gives his all not for his own pleasure – but for the sake of me. That is the way the kingdom started, by God giving His all for us, and that is the way it works today where we give our all for the purpose of reconciliation as Jesus asked, one for another who are in the kingdom. 

Lent is about return certainly, but more so about true understanding of our life in and encounter with the One whose great love and self-giving greatly changes us. Changed, we then are the vastly different of the Kingdom who self-give as the Father does to draw many to Jesus and into His Kingdom.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 4

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation

Three Sundays ago, we met St. Dismas. We learned who he was. We considered what brought him to the life he led. We began considering questions about those times when we, like Dismas, turned from God, let temptation win. Then we set on the road to repentance. We set to take the same opportunity Dismas had; to ask ourselves questions and use those questions to grow into better and better images of Jesus.

We discussed the issue of equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both.

We recognize inherent equality in human dignity. The image of God is in all. Dismas, like every other person around the cross, is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are. In our equality we acknowledge that we are all presented with the same possibility Dismas and Gestas had. Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved.

While we have that ability to come and be saved, we tend to get caught up in our weakness and fear. Fear is compounded when we face God’s absolute honesty. Dismas wasn’t strong enough and lived a sinful and destructive life even in the face of God’s truth. Until. Like Dismas, we must have the courage to grab the chance. We must not forego the chance like Gestas did. We are called to see the full honesty of God – truth and mercy that provides each of us the chance to grow and produce even in the direst of moments.

Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him. He overcame fear without neglecting Jesus’ truth, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life.

Dismas, in his encounter with Jesus, spoke the prayer of faith. He spoke to be saved. In this short moment, Dismas acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus, admitted his sin, and asked for salvation. Dismas lived the parable of the Prodigal by coming back and received eternal life. We are called to do exactly the same. Our Lenten journey with Dismas is a model to be followed. If we follow it, take hold of Jesus’ promise, and live in Him, we are recreated as disciple ambassadors, ever new.