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Liturgical day: Sunday 24th (C) in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Exod 32:7-11.13-14): The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, o Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’. ‘I see how stiff-necked this people is’, continued the Lord to Moses. ‘Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation’. But Moses implored the Lord, his God, saying, ‘Why, o Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage’. So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.
Responsorial Psalm: 50
R/. I will rise and go to my father.
Have mercy on me, o God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.

A clean heart create for me, o God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. My sacrifice, o God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, o God, you will not spurn.
2nd Reading (1Tim 1:12-17): Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Verscicle before the Gospel (2Cor 5:19): Alleluia. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Lk 15,1-32): Tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering. «This man welcomes sinners and eats with them». So Jesus told them this parable: «Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and seek out the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbors together and say: ‘Celebrate with me for I have found my lost sheep’. I tell you, just so, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine upright who do not need to repent.

»What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp and sweep the house in a thorough search till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbors and say: ‘Celebrate with me for I have found the silver coin I lost!’. I tell you, in the same way there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner».

Jesus continued, «There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father: ‘Give me my share of the estate’. So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land where he squandered his wealth in loose living. Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything. Finally coming to his senses, he said: ‘How many of my father's hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against God and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants’. With that thought in mind he set off for his father's house.

»He was still a long way off when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said: ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son…’. But the father turned to his servants: ‘Quick! Bring out the finest robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and kill it. We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found’. And the celebration began.

»Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and was near the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered: ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration and killed the fattened calf’. The elder son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The indignant son said: ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him’. The father said: ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad’».

«There will be (...) rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner»

Fr. Alfonso RIOBÓ Serván
(Madrid, Spain)

Today, we are to consider one of the most celebrated parables of the Gospel: the parable of the prodigal son, who, while realizing the gravity of his offense to his father, goes back to him and is received with immense joy.

To see the circumstances driving Jesus Christ to disclose this parable, we can move up to the beginning of this Gospel. According to the Scripture, «Tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say» (Lk 15:1), and this made Pharisees and scribes frown and mutter: «This man welcomes sinners and eats with them» (Lk 15:2). They thought the Lord was not to share his time and his friendship with persons of such dubious lives. They could not care less about those who, far from God, needed to be converted.

But, while this parable proves that nobody is meant to be lost for God, and encourages sinners by fostering their self-assurance and by showing them his goodness, it also includes a very important lesson for those who, apparently, do not feel the need of a spiritual rebirth: so, let us not decide that someone is “wicked” or do away with anyone; rather, let us always behave generously as a father accepting his lost son. The elder son's distrust, pointed out at the end of the parable, coincides with the initial malicious gossip of the Pharisees.

In this parable, not only is invited he who most certainly needs conversion, but also who thinks he does not need it. Its beneficiaries are not only publicans and sinners, but also the Pharisees and scribes; not only those who decidedly live by turning their back to God, but, maybe, all of us, who, having been blessed by him, in spite of everything, conform ourselves to what little we give him in exchange, and skimp our generosity either with him or with our fellow men. At the Vatican Council II we are told that by presenting us to the mystery of God's love, we have been called to establish a personal relationship with him, to set out on a spiritual path that will change us from the old man we are into the new perfect man after Christ.

The conversion we may need could perhaps be less noisy, but more radical and deep, and more constant and preserved: God is asking us to convert ourselves to love.