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Sep 13, 2013 Written by 

24th Sunday in Ordinary time-year C (15th September, 2013) Be the first to comment!

Theme: Who Can Be Forgiven?

Is there forgiveness for Adolf Hitler, who led the Nazi regime in the systematic extermination of millions of innocent people? Is there forgiveness for the butchering that took place between the Tutsi and the Hutu in Rwanda a few years ago? Is there forgiveness for those who operated the killing fields of Luwero in Uganda, where regime after regime piled the thousands of bodies of those suspected of being his enemies? Is there any chance of forgiving Saddam Hussein, who ordered the torture and slaughter of untold numbers of men, women and children? Is there forgiveness for those who looked away and did nothing to help all the victims of injustice, violence and hatred?

Can there be forgiveness for the horrors resulting from the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki? If anything in this long litany of questions has evoked a negative response from us, then the powerful message of today’s sacred texts has yet to take hold of us and find a home in our hearts and minds. If we had absorbed the message, we would have no doubt that it is essential to the very character of God to be forgiving. God forgives all who seek this gift of divine healing, regardless of the sin, however grave or however unconscionable.

First Reading: Exodus 32:9-11, 13-14

In this world with all its conflicts, its repetitive cycles of alienation and hostility, forgiveness as an urgent public issue that demands our careful attention. There are intractable issues in the world today citizens versus foreigners. Just a few years ago here in Uganda there was a thorny issue of Protestants versus Catholics; just imagine the Palestinians versus Israelis in the Middle East and these issues often defy political solutions and peace processes. Only forgiveness truthfully offered and humbly received seems to be the way to move ahead together. To understand the quality of this forgiveness, we have to look to God. God’s willingness to forgive makes possible and authorizes the practice of the forgiveness we offer to one another. This text from Exodus dramatically illustrates the quality of divine forgiveness. As it is presented, God may seem to be petulant and quick to punish. However, this dramatization serves only to emphasize the seriousness of Israel’s sin. Although God had rescued them from Egypt and invited them to become a people covenanted in love to a caring, provident God, the Israelites continued to be attracted to other gods. This incident of the golden calf represents an anachronism that is duplicated in the transference of a later event that we find in the reign of king Jeroboam who installs two golden calves at the shrines of Dan and Bethel 1 Kings 12:28. Bulls as objects of worship were fashioned in the ancient Near East as early as the 13th-century B.C. Apis in Egypt and Baal in Canaan were so depicted. Among the Israelites, the making of the golden calf was not as much a deviation to these idols as it was a desire to have a visible representation of their God to worship.

Theologically speaking; this fabrication of the calf is a good example of how human beings can confuse the vox populi with the vox Dei. At any moment, a purely human institution can produce a “calf” in order to meet the perceived needs of the people. But religion is not about fulfilling needs; it is about a relationship with God, who, in Israel’s case (and in ours too), refused to be confined to any one place, however lovely or sacrosanct. By placing this incident within the context of the exodus narrative which is the pivotal event in all of Israel’s history, the text portrays Israel’s action as representative of the human response to God’s goodness. Despite the inconsistency and the repeated sins of humankind, God remains constant, faithful and ever ready to forgive. Because of God’s repeated willingness to forgive, we sinners can continue to hope and work with God and with grace at bettering ourselves and our relationships with God and one another. God has cemented the relationship with sinners through the persona and mission of Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus assures us that God and all of heaven rejoice every time we turn our faces toward God and cooperate with the forgiveness that makes us whole and holy.

The book of Exodus tells us how God repeatedly forgave Israel. This forgiveness is bestowed not because of the persuasive defense of Moses or because of any worthiness on Israel’s part. God forgives because God, in all goodness and love is not otherwise. Only God is slow to anger, rich in kindness, loving and forgiving is God.

Second Reading: 1Timothy 1:12-17

The New Testament’s pastoral letters, like those to Timothy, addressed issues that were of special significance for the early Christian leader and his community. These same issues continue to merit the attention even in our time today.

  1. The role of women in the Church 1Timothy 2:8-15.  
  2. The ministry of the Church to the poor, the dispossessed 1Timothy 5:3-8.
  3. The ministry to the elderly, slaves and servants 1Timothy 6:1-2.
  4. The responsibility of the rich to use their wealth to ease the plight of the needy         1Timothy 6:17-19.
  5. The necessity of authentic prayer, effective liturgy and an ever deepening and growing spirituality. In both 1 and 2Timothy

In this second reading St. Paul attempts to keep his faith experience alive and relevant to our generation of believers. By revisiting his story of conversion Paul wishes to inspire us to be likewise given to Christ and the Gospel. Like St. Paul, we too should trust that we shall be helped by God and his grace on every step of our journey.

To his credit, Paul had cooperated wholeheartedly with God and with grace. He had been a fervent Jew who sought to keep the law and to preserve the sacred traditions of his people. Because he thought that the Jesus-movement threatened the integrity of Judaism, he worked diligently at trying to remove believers in Jesus from his community. Given his former diligence, Paul’s conversion to Christ is all the more remarkable. When he looked back on his life before his Damascus Road encounter, he called himself an arrogant blasphemer; although he acted out of ignorance, he did not excuse himself or his actions. On the contrary, Paul seemed to glory in what he had been and done, because he became the living venue wherein God worked wonders. By the same token, Paul did not take any credit for his transformed life but attributed everything to “abundant grace” 1Timothy.1:14. Graced by God, Paul humbly and willingly held himself forth to others as a hypotuposis or example. Literally, this Greek term refers to an outline or a first draft. In a sense, this great apostle to the gentiles was offering and continues to offer himself, his experience, his story, his journey as a pattern that can be used by any sinners in their own efforts to accept conversion.

By presenting his letters against the background of his imminent death, St. Paul infused this message to Timothy and Titus with a sense of urgency. He was encouraging the two young apostles to choose wisely and to entrusting to worthy leaders the traditions they had received 2Timothy 2:2. These same traditions have been entrusted to every Church leader through the centuries; some have been worthy, others less so. The Church continues because, despite human weaknesses, the Spirit of the incorruptible, invisible, only God has never left us on our own. 1Timothy 1:17. We can convincingly say that when St. Paul encountered the risen Jesus on the Damascus road, he experienced the loving kindness of God in a way that transformed him. Paul did a U turn when Saul the persecutor became Paul the preacher of the good news. For his part, Paul never tired of glorying in the creative and redemptive power of God’s forgiveness; today he invites all of us to do likewise.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-32

Eventually, and not without great suffering, there comes a time in every lost person’s experience when he/she hits the bottom of a seemingly bottomless pit. With nowhere to go but up, that person either changes or dies spiritually, if not physically. In today’s Gospel, Jesus refers to this experience in describing the wayward son who “came to his senses.” Literally translated, this phrase in Luke 15:17 reads: “he entered into himself.” There, in that terrible place, the lost son made a wonderful discovery. He was loved by his father, and even though he had forfeited any legal claim on his father, a small seed of confidence began to grow within him. Later, this experience of “coming to one’s senses” became an expression in Aramaic and in Hebrew for the turning of the repentant one toward God for forgiveness and healing.

Told as the last in a litany of “lost parables”, the story of the lost son represents the dramatic climax of a three-act “play” intended to illustrate God’s the gratuitous love for sinners. As they listened, the tax collectors and sinners who were present (Luke 15:1) began to realize their value in God’s eyes. Devalued by the Pharisees and scribes who thought that sinners were well outside the pale of God’s salvific intentions, these lost ones began to appreciate the nature of God. Like the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to search for the stray, so does God search for sinners. Like the woman who will not rest until all her coins are accounted for, so does God care for every human being, especially the lost. And finally and ever more importantly, like a father who eagerly waits to welcome a wayward son, so does God search the horizon of humanity until every lost child is welcomed home.

While Jesus’ words offered hope to sinners, the self-righteous Pharisees and Scribes represented in the parable by the elder brother became indignant. Rather than rejoice at the blessings extended to those they thought to be of no account, they cultivated a resentment that made them blind to God’s ways and deaf to the rejoicing of the angels in heaven.

Again and again, Jesus’ self-righteous community refused to accept the reversal of values and fortunes that are characteristic of the reign of God. As we look back at their reaction to Jesus and find fault with their attitudes and behavior, Jesus’ parable challenges us to allow its truth to speak keenly to our own hearts and lives. Most of us would readily identify with one son or the other at any given moment in our lives yet the most fundamental should be to identify ourselves with and even emulate the compassionate father. We are to be the one who forgives, not just the one who is forgiven. We are to be the one who welcomes, not just the one blessed by the welcome of another. Only then will we truly understand, in the very depths of who we are, what it means to live in the image of the One by whom we were created. As Jesus said, “Be holy, be compassionate, be merciful, be perfect as is your heavenly Father is perfect.” Then, all of heaven will rejoice. In the Gospel, Jesus extends a similar invitation. In these three parables, as sinners we are reminded that if we believe in and are willing to accept God’s generous forgiveness, we will, like the returning prodigal, be celebrated here and in the life to come. However, if the loving forgiveness that God extends produces disbelief and resentment in us, then we will find ourselves standing alongside an angry elder brother, with nothing to celebrate save the selfishness of our discontent. Where would you rather be?

Application

Since God is willing to always to forgive us, we need to be appreciative by responding to this call.

Keeping grudge and getting used to sin is contrary to being created in the image of God. This week, live your life expecting an epiphany for yourself, and remember that you could be an epiphany for someone else. Come home to your best self. Remember that you are loved. Give and receive hope and compassion. Embrace each day and each other with enthusiasm and you will be embraced back. Let us pray for each other that we will be given the eyes to see and the wisdom to accept life-changing epiphanies in our lives. Like the prodigal son we need to dares to hope even in our darkest hour. In our world order, the easier road is definitely the one chosen by many like the elder son, but it is certainly not the richest.

 

14157 Last modified on Friday, 13 September 2013 06:45
Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo is a Comboni Missionary Priest. He holds a PhD in Moral Theology from Academia Alphonsiana Lateran University Rome. Currently he is the Assistant Parish Priest Our Lady of Africa Mbuya- Kampala and Secretary Missionary Animation Comboni Missionaries Uganda. For the last twenty years he has worked as missionary in Kenya where he served in various capacities as National Youth Chaplain, Secretary of National Lay Apostolate, Secretary and Director Missionary Animation, Parish Priest Holy Trinity Kariobangi, Director of Radio Waumini Kenya, Program presenter of Know Your Faith Vatican Radio, Staff writer with National Mirror and New People Magazine, Theologian of Kenya Episcopal Conference, Dean of Eastland’s, Visiting Lecturer on Ethics, Social Doctrine to various Universities, Board Member various Colleges and Secondary Schools, member of College of Consultors Archdiocese of Nairobi, Theologian Delegate to the Second Africa Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace and Synod on New Evangelization for transmission of Christian faith.

Tel 0787058387

Email: Pmondo@ourladyofafrica.org

Website: www.ourladyofafrica.org

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About Our Church

Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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