Today’s readings should be familiar to us. Our Sunday readings are on a three-year cycle so if you have been coming to church all your life, you have heard these several times.
Add to that some of these readings are popular biblical stories, the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the story of the “molten calf” from the Exodus.
Thus, thinking we have heard it all before, it would be easy enough to not pay much attention to these readings. To do that would not do the readings justice.
Yes, we hear the same readings every three years but are you the same person as three years ago. What has happened in your life? What have your learned about our faith since then?
Even if you think you are the same, it is still important to give the readings serious attention. Sometimes we notice something we didn’t before. It might be because of something that has happened to us, something we learned or the Spirit might prompt us to hear something different.
Today we resume our catechesis classes for our children and youth. “Catechesis” might seem like a big church word. It means to teach. Our catechetical programs are meant to help our children have a solid foundation in our faith.
We are grateful to our catechists (meaning our children’s teachers) who volunteer to help our children know our faith.
I said before that we “resume” our classes. As we begin a new school year, many might say we “start” our classes. I used the word “resume” deliberately to remind us that learning about our faith is an ongoing process.
It starts in listening to the readings and homily every Sunday but it can be more than that with spiritual reading and/or attending activities designed to deepen our faith.
The Israelites in the Exodus probably thought they had a strong faith when God freed them from slavery in Egypt. God presented them with the Commandments and they agreed to follow the Commandments. One might have thought they were all set, knowing what they needed to know but their faith was imperfect.
Moses then went up on the mountain to converse with God. When the Israelites saw that Moses was delayed in returning, they became “depraved”, “turned aside” from the way the Lord had shown them, and made a “molten calf.”
If their faith had been stronger, if they knew everything, this would not have happened. They needed to grow more in their faith and we should seek the same. Learning about our faith does not end in Confirmation. It is a lifelong process if we truly want to be good disciples.
It is in this same desire to grow in our faith that we need to open ourselves to new insights each time we hear the same readings at Mass. What is God saying to us today? The Bible is a living document, still relevant today.
For instance, the first time a person hears the Parable of the Prodigal Son, one probably focuses on the fact that the younger son sinned, hit bottom, and returned to his father who eagerly welcomed him back. We see this as a sign of how God is willing to forgive us when we repent. This is a very important point and to know this gives us hope.
Yet, we can find more in the readings.
For instance, the story is not just about the younger son. We might relate to the younger son as sinners but have you ever asked yourself if you are more like the older son, always doing what the father asked but resenting those who have turned away and refusing to welcome them back? In short, are you willing to forgive others?
The older son was not. The father was.
Are you like the father, willing to forgive?
Not only was the father willing to forgive, he was eager to do so. The culture of the time would have said then when the younger son left with his inheritance before the father died, he would be considered dead to the family. The culture would have said the father would refuse to ever talk to the son again.
However, this father was not like that. He was so eager to forgive, to reconcile, that when he saw his younger son approaching, he ran out to greet him and threw a celebration.
What is your reaction when you see someone in church that hasn’t been here in a while and has sinned? Do you think, “what are they doing here?” or do you rejoice that they have returned? Maybe they still need conversion but how do you expect them to change if they don’t come to church?
Finally, going back to seeing ourselves as the younger son, what sins have you committed? Have you confessed them to God?
Sometimes people say they need to get their sins under control and then they will come to confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To think that way is to think we can do it all on our own. We can’t. We need God’s help.
In the story, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, part of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, Eustace sees the dragon’s treasure and becomes greedy. Because of his greed, he is transformed into a dragon himself. He cannot change himself back. He needs Aslan to do this for him.
reconcile ourselves to God. We need God
to do this. We need God to wipe out our
offenses, to wash us from our guilt, and to create a clean heart in us. God does this in the Sacrament of
Reconciliation when we confess our sins with a contrite heart.