This homily was given on Sunday, September 15, 2019. My apologies for the late posting.
I don’t know about you, but I am always forgetting things. Why is it so hard to remember simple things? Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it is. There were several years where I was convinced my mom’s birthday was a day later than it actually was. I still would get it mixed up if I hadn’t saved it on my phone! Yet, there are some memories we hold on to for ages. Sometimes, this is good. Remembering how excited I was when I got the letter from the bishop calling me to be ordained a priest, for example, is a great memory. I also hold on to other things, though: mistakes I’ve made, regrets I have, things people have done to me. It seems like I remember my failures and the failures of those around me much better than I remember my successes and the love and care of other people. It can be easy to be cynical in this situation. It gets even worse when I think of God, and recognize that I regularly forget all the amazing gifts he has given me: life, intelligence, his Love, conquering death on the Cross for me. On top of that, I like to blame my failures on him sometimes, so not only do I forget God’s love, but I have this convoluted idea of him in my head. I think of God, sometimes, as some great torturer, who delights in punishing me, instead of thinking of Him as he truly is: the one who loves me most in the universe.
We must all work to remember.
Our readings today remind us of this. In Exodus, Moses asks God to remember his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his promise to give them descendants as numerous as the stars, a perpetual heritage. This is, of course, ridiculous. God always remembers. It is us who must remember God’s promise to bring us back to himself. St. Paul today, in his letter to Timothy, recounts where he came from. He started out as a persecutor of the Christians, but look at him now: an apostle of Jesus Christ! This is the way we should remember our past mistakes: as evidence of how much we have been forgiven and loved by God.
Then, of course, we have the Gospel. All three parables are about forgiveness and God bringing us back to himself after we wander off through our sins, but they are also about remembering. That poor lost sheep forgot the joy of being in the flock of the Good Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd remembered and brought that little sheep back. The woman lost a coin of inestimable value to her, and would not stop until she found it and had it back in her presences. The young son forgot that his true joy was not in money or pleasures of the flesh, but instead in his inherent dignity as a son of such a great and loving a father. The elder son similarly forgot his true joy: that he lived in the presence of that same father, sharing in his glory every day.
In case you haven’t already jumped ahead of me: we are all that lost sheep, that lost coin, the younger son, and at times the older son. We wander off from Jesus Christ our Shepherd when we sin. When we are lost, forgetting the image of God that has been stamped on our hearts and souls, our master seeks us out like women searching for her lost coin. When we mistake temporary pleasure for permanent happiness, God never stops watching for us to come home, so he can clean our wounds from sin and cloth us in the robes of his beloved sons and daughters. We must remember. We must remember God created everything for us. We must remember the life God breaths into us. We must remember God’s love for us. We must remember that God never stops searching for us, even when we turn away from him and run. We must remember that God will always be there for us, every moment of our lives. We must remember that our dignity stems from the fact that we are his children, and nothing else. Remembering all of these things, we come to an incredible realization: God wishes to work through us. He gives us all of the gifts we receive—his love, his mercy, his Sacraments—so that we may be empowered. He has empowered us to live Christian lives, to be lights to all the world, to be those instruments of his love and mercy to others. Brothers and sisters, remember, and be empowered.
September 15, 2019
24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32