Jesus Our Lord! The Full Aroma of God’s Mercy
Readings: (1st: Ex 32, 7-11.13-14; Ps: 50, 3-4. 13.17; 2nd: I Tim 1, 12-17; Gos: Lk 15, 1-32)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
Part of the Common Preface – II (Salvation through Christ) in the Roman Order of Mass that I cherish so much reads: “…For in goodness You created man, and when he was justly condemned, in mercy You redeemed him through Christ our Lord…” This is the resume of the whole readings and teaching of this redemptive 24th Sunday of the Church’s Ordinary Time. The Church therefore, invites us and gives us another golden opportunity not only to reflect on, but most importantly to savour the sweetness of the Aroma of God’s MERCY made whole in Jesus Christ Our Lord. At the epicenter of today’s readings is the fact of God’s mercy and his readiness to welcome us, poor sinners back to himself. However, this return and welcoming back is strongly dependent on the effort we make to repent. In order words, our God being a merciful Father operates an “open door policy” because, he is ever ready to let the aroma of his mercy flow into us. Hence, he beckons us to: “Come let us settle the matter, even though your sins are as red as crimson, you shall be white as snow, if you are willing and able you will eat the best from the Land” (Ish 1, 18-19).
One very important lesson we are to learn from today’s readings is the power of intercession for both ourselves and for our fellow sinners. The Christ we celebrate today is the second Moses who in the Old Testament interceded for his sinful people. He is a merciful Lord and Master who came into the world not for the purpose of judging and condemning us its inhabitance, but to acquit and set us free. This is true because: “…When we were still sinners and powerless, Jesus Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom 5, 6). He continues to intercede for us every day especially by being both our priest and victim at Mass. Jesus like Moses, never gives up on us. Rather, he untiringly and relentlessly continues to intercede for us. So too, we must not be tired of doing same for one another and our ungodly world and generation because the God to whom Moses interceded to on behalf of his people is still the same God whose aroma of mercy we can still perceive and savour today if only we sharpen our spiritual oganoleptic senses.
In the first reading of today from Exodus, we are reminded of the imminent and blazing wrath of God just as Paul warns us that, “the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness” (Rom 1, 18). In this reading we also discover a God who knows and abides by his own promises once he is reminded of them, a God who is faithful to the vows he made, and a God whose love surpasses his anger and whose mercy overtakes his judgment. However, he says to us: If my people called by my name will turn away from their sins, I will heal their land…” (2 Chr 7, 14). Therefore, all we need do is to call upon the Lord and remind him of his promises as Moses did. A saying goes that to whom much is given, much is expected. This simply means that as we ourselves were accepted and brought back by God through his pardon and mercy, we must do same for others who sin against us. It is true that initially we might over boil with rage and frustrations as is usually the case and in tandem with our natural human inclinations yet, we must be ready to welcome back our offenders as our God did for us. As products of mercy, we must also be ready to show mercy to others because, “blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Matt 5, 7).
In the second reading, Paul succinctly reminds us of the fact that like himself, we are all products of God’s mercy. Often times when the term “sinners” are mentioned, we tend to look for them elsewhere or distance ourselves from it. Actually, it is supposed to be rightly so, but unfortunately, the truth like Chinua Achebe of the blessed memory said is that, “things have fallen apart and the center can no longer hold” in our lives. Paul was not ashamed or afraid to identify himself with such instead, he examined and knew himself as Socrates advised, and then accepted to savour the sweet aroma of the fullness of God’s mercy through Christ. In all of these, we too like Paul, must be grateful to, “the the eternal king, the undying, invincible and only God” to whom, “be honour and glory forever”.
The gospel of today in which Jesus was, for want of evidence against him, accused of welcoming and dinning with sinners by the Pharisees and the Scribes brings to mind some of the accusation leveled against the Holy Father, Pope Francis at the inception of his papacy. While some accused him of being too liberal, others accused him of watering down ecclesiastical and hierarchical prestige, splendor and grandeur. Yet, some were highly embittered because they felt he was eroding the fabrics of an age long tradition by washing the feet of a poor woman on Holy Thursday. However, in spite of all these, Pope Francis has proved many wrong by the great success he has achieved so far through his demonstration of love, mercy and compassion for the poor, “sinners,” and the marginalized of our world.
In today’s gospel therefore, Jesus demonstrates to us how the mercy and love of God continues to pursue and search for us in spite of our sins. This is because he cares for our souls. Unlike in the first reading, where the wrath of God was so great, in the gospel He reaches out to sinners as a caring and loving Father. In spite of our prodigality, the merciful God is ever willing to go all out in search of us. And when he finds us, he embraces, kisses, and restores us. But the question is, for how long must we hide and stray from him? Is it not time we returned to our willing and able Father whose mercy surpasses his judgment? Are we not tired of being aliens in the domain of sin where there is no succor but pain and sorrow? God has made our return very easy through Jesus Christ as Paul attests. All we need is to sincerely and humbly cry out to him like the prodigal son: “I will leave this place and go back to my father”. We must cast shame to the wind, be free from the chains of sin and savour the sweet aroma of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ because, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never comes to an end, they are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness” (Lam 3, 22-23).
Peace be with you all!