Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (José Antonio Pagola)

Ross Reyes DizonHomilies and reflections, Year CLeave a Comment

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The most scandalous gesture

The most provocative and scandalous gesture of Jesus was undoubtedly his characteristic acceptance, with special warmth, of sinners, men and women.  They were cast out by religious leaders and branded by society  because they live on the fringes of the Law.  His habit of eating with them cordially was what was most irritating.

Ordinarily, we forget that Jesus created quite a stir in the society of his time.  Sinners do not run away from him.  On the contrary, they feel attracted by his personality and his message.  Luke tells us that “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus.”  It appears they find in him an acceptance and understanding they find nowhere else.

Meanwhile, the sectors of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, men with the most prestige in regard to religion and morality, only know how to criticize, scandalized, the behavior of Jesus:  “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  How can a man of God eat at the same table with those sinful and undesirable people?

Jesus never paid attention to his critics.  He knew God is not the harsh and stern Judge that those teachers who occupied the seats of honor in synagogues kept speaking about with such certainty.  He knows well the Father’s heart.  God understands sinners; he offers forgiveness to all; he excludes no one; he forgives everything.  No one should obscure and disfigure his unfathomable and gratuitous forgiveness.

That is why Jesus offers them his understanding and friendship.  Those prostitutes and tax collectors have to feel  God welcomes them.  This is the first.  They have nothing to fear.  They can seat at his table, they can drink wine and sing hymns next to Jesus.  His acceptance is bringing them inner healing.  He frees them from shame and humiliation.  He gives back to them the joy of living.

Jesus accepts them as they are, without demanding anything from them beforehand.  He keeps infecting them with his peace and his trust in God, without being certain that they will respond by changing their behavior.  He does so completely trusting in the mercy of God who is already waiting with open arms, like a good father who runs to meet his lost son.

The first duty of a Church faithful to Jesus is not to condemn sinners but to understand them and to give them a friendly welcome.  I was able to see it for myself in Rome several months ago that every time Pope Francis insisted that God always forgives, forgives everything, forgives everybody …, people applauded enthusiastically.  Surely, this is what many people of little and hesitant faith need to hear clearly today from the Church.

José Antonio Pagola

September 15, 2013
24 Ordinary Time (C)
Luke 15, 1-32

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