As we continue our continuous reading of Luke’s Gospel on this Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear from the famous Chapter 15. This Chapter gives us the familiar stories of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son.
Because the Pharisees are scandalized by Jesus’ popularity among “tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus shares three stories about God’s mercy and the need for human cooperation with God’s grace. In the first two stories, an item of value is lost and the owner goes to great lengths to recover it. The recovery of each item brings great joy to its owner. No one wants to lose something of value, not even God. Jesus concludes with his best story, communicating the depth of God’s mercy to sinners who repent.
Throughout this year, we have been celebrating a Holy Year, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Jubilee Year began on December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and will conclude on November 20, 2016 – the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Holy Year provides us with several opportunities to experience the amazing, incredible and unbelievable gift of God’s mercy. All are offered forgiveness, but not all embrace it. The story of the prodigal reminds us we can always return home, and that if we choose, sadly and tragically, we can remain in that far off country. We open our hearts to experience God’s mercy during this special year of grace.
Now that we are past the Labor Day holiday, we welcome back all those who have spent the summer weekends away. When I was growing up, my family had a summer home on Delavan Lake in Wisconsin. Summer weekends and holidays were always spent “at the lake.” We were very familiar with the summer Mass schedules of St. Andrew’s church in Delavan and St. Benedict’s church in Fontana. Both parishes became our summer parish as we would go to whichever church offered the next scheduled Sunday Mass. We would return to our home parish of St. John the Baptist in Winfield on the Sunday following Labor Day. I was always amazed to learn what had happened at my home parish during that period we were “at the lake” between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It was easy to lose touch with our home parish while we were at our summer parishes. If this experience sounds familiar, if you have been attending another parish “at the lake” this summer, we are very happy to welcome you back home. If your summer Mass attendance took a vacation during the summer months, we are also glad to have you back with us. Autumn and the start of the school year are a good time to recommit ourselves to faithfully joining our parish community for Mass each weekend.
I suspect that we all remember, and will probably always remember, exactly where we were and what we were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Today we observe the 15th anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks on our country. A common reaction at that time was that everyone had to really ask themselves what was important in life. The normal things that we get so excited about were all cast aside. Again this year, the news coverage of this anniversary gives us ample opportunity to reflect on the many ways the events of this day have changed us. Our individual experiences these past fifteen years have been varied. For myself, I believe that we have become much more aware of how fragile human life really is. Despite our efforts to control the circumstances around us, none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. The invitation that comes in remembering 9-11 is to not take anything for granted. We need to do the things we need to do and to say the things we need to say now, today, so that there are no regrets tomorrow. Without a doubt, people are far more important than things.
Thank you to our Knights of Columbus Father John Guiney Council for hosting a “Blue Mass” at our 10:00am Mass today. The “Blue Mass” takes its name from the blue uniforms worn by police, fire and emergency services personnel. It is very appropriate that we honor our local first responder heroes as we commemorate the 9/11 anniversary today. Thank you to all police, firefighters, Sheriff’s deputies, Emergency Medical Technicians and rescue workers who have joined with us today. We thank you for your service and ask God’s continued blessings upon you.
It is wonderful to see so much activity all around us. The summer with its slower pace is clearly gone. It is good to be in such an alive and exciting time of year. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy