AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
EXODUS 32:7-11, 13-14/ PSALM 51/ 1TIMOTHY 1:12-17/ LUKE 15:1-32
THEME: THE MERCY OF GOD IS INEXHAUSTIBLE
“He paid the debt He did not owe, I own a debt I could not pay, I need someone to wash my sins away.” goes the popular song. The common theme that is running through the three readings of today’s Mass is the need that we all have for God’s forgiveness. In the first reading, we see how the people of Israel whom God has rescued from their slavery in Egypt degenerated immediately into a worse type of slavery, namely spiritual slavery of idolatry. They left the God who saved them to worship a calf of their own making. Moses pleads for them and God forgives them their sins. If Moses, a sinful man like us can plead God’s mercy for the Israelites, then it is certain that the New Moses, God himself, in Jesus Christ is able to forgive us immeasurably more than we can imagine or think about. This is what the Gospel reading presents to us.
In the Gospel reading, we listened once more to the account of the tender love of the father for his youngest son. The boy has spurned the father’s love, abandoned his house, used the very things he had received from his father to lead an evil life. Here we see the meaning of sin as living the presence of God, preferring the presence of what is hostile to God, and using the very gifts God has given us in order to alienate ourselves from him. At the same time, the meaning of forgiveness is revealed: it is returning to the presence of our Father, an entering into the arms of the Father, an occasion for joy, (Can you imagine God dancing for you because you have returned to him)?
Sometimes we are like the elder brother. His father’s plea was to calm his justified anger. Unfortunately his anger blinded him so much so that he did not realize that everything in his father’s house belongs to him. Indeed, he lost everything. In our anger, let us be careful because, we will lose everything, we will lose our son ship in God’s kingdom. The elder son thought that obeying his father and working for him as a slave meant righteousness. Indeed, he complained that his father never appreciated his hard work let alone organized a feast in his honour. But unlike the younger son, he did not ask his father for anything. Sometimes in our self- righteousness, we think that God knows everything we need and so we do not ask. Indeed, he knows everything but we must ask. When those who in our own estimation do not deserve God’s favour are favored because they asked, we became angry like the Elder brother.
The elder brother is not aware that his brother is a changed person; a transformed man. He is still living in his past; he is holier than thou. His vision has been clouded and obscured by his self- righteousness. Thus instead of rejoicing in his brother’s conversion, he is angry; he is sad and will not even listen to his father’s plea “… Son you are always with me and all that I have is yours, but we must celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life he was lost and has been found (v.31-32).” The impudence with which he says to his father “…When this son of yours came back after devouring your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him (v.30) must be condemned. Indeed, his younger brother was a son of his father that is why he is pleased to have him back safe and sound. Our return to God is not to be determined by our past life. Jesus wants to accept us for who we are. Indeed, if angels in heaven will rejoice over one repentant sinner than ninety-nine righteous people who are you, an individual, to be angry about the conversion of someone? If you do that you will lose everything including your years of faithfulness to the Lord. I believe that the Elder brother was overwhelmed by the fact that his father received his wayward brother back with such alacrity. Indeed, in the acts of love, words are lost. It must be emphasized that by his choice of words, the elder brother lost two things: He lost friendship with his own brother and he also lost his share of the estate.
Knowing God without knowing our wretchedness leads to pride; knowing our wretchedness without knowing God leads to despair so says Blaise Pascal. This is what happens to most of us. God continues to plead with us to make a return to him but we have allowed jealousy to cloud this beatific vision. What then becomes of the elder brother in the parable? In comparison to his younger brother, who is better placed? Where do you place yourself? Are you broken? The Lord is calling and waiting for you. He is calling tenderly (song). It is always difficult to admit that we have done wrong. It has always been difficult to admit that we have ever than anything wrong. We are going through a period of increasing moral insensitivity in our culture today. Imagine the change that has taken place only within the past ten years. People are no longer shocked at what would have been appalling a few years ago: The widespread practice of abortion, sexual promiscuity in marriage and outside of marriage, indiscipline every where the all pervasive atmosphere of eroticism that has saturated everything.
The church tried to make us to be honest and admit the fact that we need forgiveness. God asks for our honesty not our alibis or excuses. In the prayers at the beginning of Mass, we pray for mercy. But this often, as we know in the heart of hearts, is a mere formality. Yet it is true to say that if we are not aware of the fact that we are truly sinful people then we do not have any sense of the need of the Saviour. Christ said he came to save sinners. Unless we are aware of our need of forgiveness, we cannot be aware of the difference that Christ makes in our lives as a Saviour. St. Bernard will say then that “ The whole of our spiritual life turns on two things: we are troubled when we contemplate ourselves and our sorrow brings salvation; when we contemplate God we are restored so that we receive consolation from the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the contemplation of ourselves we gain fear and humility; but from the contemplation of God hope and love.” Paul made the words of St. Bernard his own when he accepted his guilt.
In the second reading, therefore, Paul gives his personal testimony to the abundance of God’s mercy. He knew from his personal experience the greatness of God’s mercy, because he had persecuted the Church. In fact, for Paul, the great mercy that God has shown him should be the source of hope to everyone. If God forgave Paul, then there is no one who should despair of God’s Mercy.