Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There’s a short story by Richard Pindell called ‘Somebody’s Boy’. It speaks about a runaway boy, named David sitting by the side of the road writing a letter to his mother. The letter expresses the hope that his old-fashioned father will forgive him and accept him again as his son. In the letter the boy writes: ‘In a few days I will be passing our home. If Dad will take me back, ask him to tie a white cloth on the apple tree in the field next to our house. As he approaches the house, he is afraid that the white cloth won’t be there, and he asks the person sitting next to him: Mister around this bend on the right you will see a tree. Tell me if there’s a white cloth on it’. As the bus passes the tree the man replies: Son, there’s a white cloth tied to practically every branch’. The gospel today gives us three classic parables of Jesus, each one exploring the notion, which is at the heart of the spiritual life, namely that God is the one who searches for us. Today we speak a lot about searching for God, but the Bible speaks to us about Gods quest for us. The heart of the spiritual life is not so much about searching for God but allowing ourselves to be found. One of the aspects, which we see in all three parables, is the craziness of the searchers. What shepherd would leave 99 in danger and go in search of the one idiot who strayed. Imagine you were one of the 99 how would you feel, if he abandoned you, this is crazy. Imagine the woman who lost the coin, and she turns the house upside down until she finds it. The coin we are speaking about her is 2 euros, who would turn the house upside down for 2 euros. Then she calls the neighbours to rejoice. Imagine your neighbour invited you to a party; listen I have found 2 euros that I had lost. Then we have the prodigal son. This father who was insulted by the son, hurry up and die and give me my money and then he goes and squanders the money on loose living, the father who waits and waits and then runs to meet him and organise a feast. St. Catherine of Sienna has a beautiful phrase when she said that God is ‘pazzo di amore’ (madly in love). Here Jesus is giving us two lessons.  In the first place he is telling us how much God loves us, and forgives us.  Even the greatest sinner in the world can come back to God and find a loving Father. He will wipe away our sins and give us a new start.  This is the great grace of the sacrament of confession.  The second lesson is that God offers us a challenge. He asks us to do the same, to forgive others as he forgives us. If this can be difficlut then let us pray,  help me to forgive them as you have forgivne me. “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” We are exceptionally good at seeing the fault in others, but we are exceptionally adept at ignoring it in ourselves. It is a thousand times easier to come back to God than to come home to the criticism of others. Oscar Wilde summarises in a phrase: Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future.