15 September 2007

Agreeing with God

24th Sunday OT: Exo 32.7-11, 13-14; 1 Tim 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-10
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
U.D. Freshman Retreat (Vigil) & Church of the Incarnation, Irving, TX

Listen here!

I wonder if I can get you to agree with me on a few ideas…

Can we agree that. . .

. . .God treats sinners mercifully?

. . .the grace of Jesus Christ is abundant?

. . .faith and love are abundant in Christ as well?

. . .Christ came into this world as a man to save sinners?

. . .the more sinful you are the more mercifully God’s treats you?

. . .Christ is patient w/our stubbornness, waiting on our repentance?

. . .once we have repented and come to Christ, that Christ will use you as an example to those who would come to believe?

. . .our Lord, who strengthens us in our ministry, the work we do for him, that he deserves our praise and thanks for his mercy, his love, his faith, and for patiently enduring our stubbornness? Yes? Good! You have confirmed the witness of St. Paul to Timothy.

Now you are ready to hear the gospel again: to the Pharisees and scribes who were wagging their bony, accusing fingers at him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says: “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” I don’t think you have to be a U.D. math major to figure this one out! Why will there be more joy in heaven over one sinner’s repentance than the presence of ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent? Here’s a hint: once you are found, once you are truly righteous, you are one of those in heaven rejoicing over the repentance of one sinner. . .

You’ve been very agreeable so far. Let’s see what else I can get you to agree with. . .

Can we agree that. . .

. . .we are prone to disobedience, hard-heartedness?

. . .we often “turn aside from the way” God points out to us?

. . .we fashion idols to worship, Something or One above God?

. . .we are on occasion a stiff-necked people, stubborn, cold, deaf?

. . .we often deserve God’s wrath, to be judge justly according to the Law?

. . .we have heard God’s promise of mercy and his promise to make His people a great nation, a royal priesthood?

. . .we are ALL subject to His mercy, totally dependent on His grace; utterly w/o a thing, a name, a place, w/o being itself if not for His gift of Himself to us? Yes? Good! You have affirmed the witness of Moses to the ages.

Now you are ready to hear the gospel again: to the Pharisees and scribes who were wagging their bony, accusing fingers at him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus tells them about a woman who finds her one lost coin. She calls her friends together to celebrate. Jesus says, “In just the same way there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Why will there be heavenly rejoicing over one sinner’s repentance? Here’s a hint: once you are found, once you are truly righteous, you are one of those in heaven rejoicing over the repentance of just one sinner. . .

Jesus did not die on the cross for the righteous. He did not come to heal the healthy, to cure the able, to save the saved. He did not take on flesh and walk among us and preach the Good News and teach the Father’s mercy. . .so that only the pure would benefit. Jesus’ life among us collected to him the blind, the deaf, the possessed, the hungry, the poor, the slave, the thrown-away, the tortured, the exiled and refugeed. He collected the leftovers, the scraps among us, those who get dropped and looked over. He also collected the clean, the well-educated, the religious, the healthy and wealthy, those lifted up and looked to, the welcomed and the celebrated. He collected women, men, children, soldiers, thieves, merchants, Gentiles and Jews, every nation, every people, every tongue. He collected them all…but he did NOT collect them b/c they were poor or enslaved or wealthy or exiled or religious. He collected them b/c they were sinners who saw in Christ the brilliance of God’s mercy, and they came to understand that they needed to repent, that they needed to turn away from their sin and walk the way God had pointed out to them.

THUS, therefore, and because then Jesus sits at table with those who need him. Surprise! The Pharisees then and our very own Pharisees now won’t sit at table for fear of contamination, for fear of becoming unclean by association. Fortunately, we know from Christ himself and from the magisterium of Mother Church that sin is not a virus nor is it a bacterium—sin is not transmitted by mere association! Grace, however, well, grace certainly is. Imagine that. The stain of sin, the impurity of disobedience is not transferable by walking among the sinful or talking to them or eating with them or even taking a class with them. And thank God for that! Otherwise, you righteous among us, imagine your life of loneliness, of isolation and utter abandon. Sure you’re clean, you’re pure but WOW according to Christ himself you are indeed unique among men. If you say you have no sin, you lie.

Let’s see if you are still agreeable. . .

Can we agree that. . .

. . .we all fall short of the glory we long for?

. . .we all walk among the thorns sometimes, that we all run with sinners on occasion?

. . .we all stumble, trip-up, go down on our knees racing to self-righteousness?

. . .we all fail to deserve Christ’s trust, Christ’s love?

. . .we all become depraved, become despised and outcast?

. . .we all—at one time or another—become arrogant, jealous, unloving, and, as a consequence, become apparently unlovable?

. . .we all need to be loved, need to be consoled, need to be lifted up in grace, gifted with God’s righteous, and made clean in Christ? Yes? Good! You have affirmed the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Now, you are ready to hear again the gospel: Deus caritas est! God is Love. God loves b/c He is Love. Love is Who He IS and what He does. He sent us His law and His prophets; and He sent His only child, a son, to become one of us so that we might become His children. God became Man so that we might share in the eternal of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no other reason for the coming of Christ Jesus than this: that we might eat his Body and drink his Blood for our salvation. If you will follow him—take up your cross, stop wagging your finger at all those sinners out there, preach God’s mercy, teach his Good News in word and in deed, and put yourself in plain view of the shepherd, in easy reach of the Christ, and find yourself Found! You will be greeted as a repentant sinner, as a lost soul found and rescued.

Can we agree that Jesus is Lord? Yes? Good! Now, you are ready to be the Good News for the world. . .

1 comment:

  1. I see that this post is about two years old but nonetheless I just stumbled upon it. I am going to quote you on my own blog...from that manificent paragraph mid way through your post...God collected up the scraps...what a marvellous picture! May God bless you as you bless others!