Thursday, September 8, 2016

September 11, 2016 - The Prodigal Son

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for the prodigal son

Reading I: Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14
Response: Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 17,19
Reading II: Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15: 1-32

This Sunday’s readings are again about mercy. Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book, Light of the Word, uses the expression that mercy is the “innermost attitude” of God. He quotes Timothy’s Epistle: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
(2 Tim 2:13)

God does not just give mercy when we come to Him. He goes after us. We see this in the parable of the lost sheep when the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of one lost sheep. Then, we see the woman looking for the lost coin. The father of the prodigal son watches for the return of his son and runs to greet him, embraces him, kisses him and orders his servants to prepare for a celebration of his son's return.

Francis Thompson wrote a beautiful poem in which he describes God as “The Hound of Heaven.” I can still remember Bishop Sheen reciting the poem on his television show.

Even without the dramatic voice of Bishop Sheen, it is a powerful poem which brings out the 
extravagance of God's Love. The whole poem is beautiful, but very long. Therefore, I am quoting only the beginning.  
The Hound of Heaven
By Francis Thompson  (1859–1907)
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him....

To view the entire poem, click the title link.

What an awesome God we have! His goodness is beyond our understanding. He could well be called the “prodigal father” for He is lavish, unsparing, and bounteous in His love.

How blessed we are!!! Let us praise the Lord and bless his holy name! He only asks of us to imitate Him by extending love and mercy to our brothers, sisters, and ourselves.

Gerald Darring, of St. Louis University, challenges us to mercy for our brothers and sisters in prison. Today, we are seeing people released from death's row now that DNA tests can more accurately determine whether a person has committed murder. In the spirit of mercy, Gerald Darring reminds us of the “Statement on Capital Punishment” announced by the U.S. Bishops
in 1980:

                         Abolition of capital punishment is a manifestation of our belief
                         in the unique worth and dignity of each person from the moment
                         of conception, a creature made in the image and likeness of God.
                         It is particularly important in the context of our times that this
                         belief be affirmed with regard to those who have failed or whose
                        lives have been distorted by suffering or hatred, even in the case
                        of those who by their actions have failed to respect the dignity and
                        rights of others.

Mercy would require attempts at rehabilitating prisoners. In addition, when a prisoner is released, we need to provide some assistance in finding a job and housing. Even those who might be considered unsafe to release can be treated humanely as they remain in prison.

How can we, who have received mercy from the Lord, extend mercy to his beloved children?


  1. God’s mercy is boundless, and I love how you remind us that just as the shepherd goes in search of that one lost sheep, God is always watchful and protective. He wants us in union with him, so he patiently looks after us in a fatherly way even at the times when we are less then deserving.

    When I was involved in stamping and cardmaking there were often times when people would do requests for people to send handmade cards that could later be distributed to children battling illnesses or to inspire soldiers overseas. Perhaps it would be nice to collect cards that could be sent to prisoners with loving, caring messages to lift their spirits and to show mercy.

    1. Cheri,
      Your idea is wonderful. I am currently working on a similar thought - we need to continually remind one another of our value and worth in the Lord. I believe those messages are powerful enough to produce changes in lives that are nothing short of miraculous! Let's keep the love flowing...

  2. The Gospel messages of the past two weeks addressed the high costs of discipleship and left me feeling a bit anxious about my ability to enter into the covenant love that Jesus commanded. Today’s Gospel, however, fills me with warmth, comfort, and trust as the mercy and unconditional love of the Father comes through so tenderly, showing the rewards of following Jesus. I was touched by Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s expression about mercy being the “innermost attitude” of God. How awesome is that!
    While we mentioned the radical actions Christ expected of his disciples (hating your relationships, making yourself least, etc), today’s parables point to God’s radical actions: searching for one lost sheep, looking for a lost coin, running to welcome a wayward son, all these express His unconditional love and mercy toward his children.
    In answer to your question about how we might extend the mercy that is so abundantly shown to us, perhaps we can embrace radical forgiveness to others (as well as to ourselves when needed). When we forgive, we become God’s love in action. There is so much hurt and brokenness in our world - love, forgiveness, and mercy are powerful remedies for all its ills.
    We can stop judging others, particularly those who are in a difficult place, such as the homeless, migrants, the addicted, and poor. When we catch ourselves falling into criticism we can make a conscious shift in attitude and ask the Lord to open our hearts that we can send love to these individuals, who are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are re-minded of our oneness in Christ and become able to care about the dignity of these people. In this framework we are empowered to work for justice as suggested in your post.
    We are blessed, indeed, and the more aware we are of the Presence of God in our daily lives, the more we realize just how precious we are in His sight validating the quote from Timothy’s Epistle: “…he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”

  3. Thank you for the interesting and inspiring blog, Sister. We always appreciate your messages. The "Hound of Heaven" is definitely a fascinating poem. I like your observation that it brings out "the extravagance of God's love."

    The Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 51 ("The Miserere"), is probably very familiar to all of us. We recognize it as a deeply spiritual prayer, and also a real literary treasure. The
    following quotation is from a General Audience given by Pope John Paul II:

    "We have just heard the Miserere, one of the most famous prayers of the Psalter, the most intense and commonly used penitential psalm, the hymn of sin and pardon, a profound meditation on guilt and grace. The liturgy of the hours makes us pray it at Lauds every Friday. For centuries the prayer has risen to heaven from the hearts of many faithful Jews and Christians as a sign of repentance and hope poured out to a merciful God."
    Pope John Paul II
    General Audience
    October 3, 2001

    Basically, the lines lines of the poem which were chosen for today's liturgy indicate the following:

    a plea for mercy and compassion (L 3)
    a request for spiritual cleansing and renewed spirit (L 4, 12)
    a guard against rejection (L 13)
    a desire to praise God (L 14)
    confidence that God will not spurn the humble heart (L 19)

    The Communion Antiphon seems to express the general theme very appropriately. . .

    "How precious is your mercy, O God! The children of men seek shelter in the shadow of your wings."

    1. Sr. Therese Mary,
      Thank you for your insightful post, particularly for drawing our attention to the beautiful Communion Antiphon. How comforting the thought of seeking shelter in the wings of God. Have a blessed week.