24th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 11 September 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; Responsorial: Psalm 51; II: I Timothy 1:12-17; Gospel: Luke 15: 1-10 (or 1-32)
This week God’s Word has a clear and powerful message of the ministry of reconciliation that the King of Kings brought to a fallen creation with his crucifixion and resurrection. As the Gospel Acclamation proclaims: ” Alleluia. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Alleluia”. In a world so full of conflict and suffering we can be tempted to feel that Jesus has left the throne. But as we listen closely to the Truth of the Gospels, and heed the many lessons God provides us, we can grow in the assurance of God’s reign of reconciliation.
This past week we were given a sad but powerful lesson about this work, this ministry of reconciliation. The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has brought much remembrance of her long reign and service to the crown and to the world. Her quiet yet very clear Christian faith was a real and moving part of her life. Although the English monarchy has no direct political power the Queen lived her vocation with a subtle but very powerful determination to be a servant o reconciliation. Among many two distinct events of her life illustrate this point.
In May 1961 she and her husband, Prince Phillip visited the Vatican on a state visit and had an audience with Pope John XXIII. This meeting was extraordinarily important and historical. Since the Reformation and the rejection by King Henry XIII the relationship between the Catholic Church and Britain was violently broken. For centuries warfare between England and Catholic countries as well as mutual bloody persecution had brought century-deep wounds of distrust and bitterness. The royal visit to the Vatican marked shared a vibrant step of reconciliation shared by both parties.
Again in May of 2011 this service of reconciliation was repeated. The Queen had often visited the part of the Commonwealth of Northern Ireland. But in 2011 she would be the first English Monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since its independence. The photo shows her visit with then Irish president Mary McAlease to Irelands Garden of Remembrance, the memorial for all those who died for independence.
In both of these events, the Queen chose to move beyond the past into the healing and reconciliation she sensed would be the way of the King of Kings. Elizabeth did not hesitate to recognize the failings sufferings and wrongs of the past, of any side. But she knew God was calling her and her world to something better. God was calling for forgiveness and healing.
This brings us to our lives, and our faith today. We live in a world where conflict and sorrow, strife, and discord infect so many places and people. We could despair, and throw up our hands in frustration or anger. But as with the Queen, we are called to God’s better way. We are called to serve and share in God’s reign of reconciliation. This reign, our service is accomplished in many ways. But our Scriptures today give us three essential elements of this ministry of reconciliation: Prayer, Penance, and Mission, all of which are rooted and alive in Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: The account in our first Bible reference from the Book of Exodus shares the sorry story of how, while Moses was on Mt. Sinai the people of Israel chose to sin, to rebel. Big Time. Their idolatry was so saddened and hurt the love of God that His anger was raging. God was ready to start over. But Moses prayed to God to remember His promises, His love, and purpose. God was moved to forgive. Reconciliation was reached through deep, intense prayer. In our families, our homes, churches, and nations prayer changes hearts and brings God’s reign of healing mercy into our lives.
PENANCE: This ongoing quest of the servant of the King of Kings is about turning away from whatever causes our brokenness (sin) and turning to walk in the ways of God. Pope Francis recently traveled to Canada to visit and hear the native people’s hurts and mistreatment by the church. And he shared his sorrow, his repentance on behalf of the Catholic faithful. His trip of penance began what will be a needed journey of reconciliation. Whether it be with God or some person our being sorry for our failings, misunderstandings can open the doors to sharing the path of mercy.
MISSION: As we relate to each other, as we relate to God we must realize and remember that failings, sins, or just simple misunderstandings may well occur. But we must allow the power of God to lift our minds and hearts to see God’s clearer mission, God’s better way. Bitterness, anger, finger-pointing, and guilt are not what we are made for, what we should be about. This message, this work of sharing in God’s reign of reconciliation was well expressed faithfully by Queen Elizabeth. But we need not be a queen or king or some special minister to share in this work. We need only remember and live accordingly as the servants of the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior in this reign of reconciliation. Let us be God’s mouth, arms, hands and feet that seeks and brings His mercy, healing and hope wherever it is needed.