Exodus 32:7-11,13-14, Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,17,19, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-32

“It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32)

Last Sunday, Jesus sternly charged us to avoid tribalism. Anyone who wants to be a follower of Christ must be prepared to sacrifice everything; even his own life. Whatever causes us to sin must be cut off from our lives lest we become like those who started to build but could not complete it. Today, all our readings point to the danger of living in sin, the suffering it brings to us, and the desire of God to win us back as His beloved sons and daughters. Our readings as always are loaded with so many lessons.

*1. Sin Brings Suffering - We Cheat Ourselves when we Choose to Sin.* Before we proceed, we may ask: “What exactly is sin?” Our Gospel passage today presents a more direct definition. To sin is to deliberately decide to be lost, it is choosing to go astray, and it is the decision to leave God’s house to become gods unto ourselves (like the children of Israel did in today’s first reading).

Sin is always attractive because when tempted, satan makes us think that by giving us rules God is keeping something precious away from us. Adam and Eve were convinced they would be like God, and the prodigal son was convinced he would have a life of unlimited enjoyment. Similarly, when we are tempted, there seems to be something to gain, but as was the case with Adam and Eve, the prodigal son soon realized there was much more enjoyment within the Father’s House than anywhere else.

Is there any connection between sin and suffering? Can we relate our misfortunes in life to the sins we commit? Sure! This is exactly one of the lessons of the parable of the prodigal son. As St. Paul would say, the only reward of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Every time we sin, we bring death, suffering, and untold hardship unto ourselves. Why does sin bring us suffering? By choosing to sin, we deliberately and consciously reject God thereby taking ourselves away from the ambiance of God’s protection. So long as the prodigal son was away from the Father’s house, he could not escape from the challenges brought by famine, unemployment, and hunger.

Again, by rejecting God, sin attracts God’s wrath upon us as we saw in today’s first reading. When Jesus was told about the tower of Siloam that fell and crushed many to death, He said: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Every sin is a suicide, hence the father while consoling the elder brother referred to the prodigal son as once “dead” but has come back to life. Away from God’s presence, sin kills us. Even though not all suffering in our lives is a result of our sins, we must tell ourselves the truth that sin brings death, hardship, pain, and sorrow.

*2. There is Joy both in Heaven and on Earth for the Sinner who Repents.* The three parables in our Gospel passage today were Jesus’ response to the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes who felt that Jesus was doing something wrong by associating with those they considered sinners. At the end of each of these parables, Jesus says: “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance… rejoice with me for I have found the coin I had just lost… it is fitting to make merry and be glad for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost and is found.” Nothing brings God as much joy as our genuine and sincere repentance and this is why God desires our repentance.

*3. Repentance begins by Telling Ourselves the Truth.* Jesus tells us that when the prodigal son came to his senses, he realized that his troubles in life were as a result of his sins, he had to speak (preach) to himself: “I will arise and go back to my father.” When last did you point fingers at yourself? When last did you examine your conscience? Most of us are like the scribes and Pharisees; always pointing fingers at others but failing to look inwards. One of the secrets of Paul’s success as a great missionary and evangelist was his ability to thoroughly examine his own conscience and admit his faults. In today’s first reading, St. Paul wrote: “I am the foremost of sinners, but I received mercy that in me Jesus might display His perfect patience as an example to those who believe” (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:16-17). The key to true repentance is a self-examination of conscience.

*4. Don’t Fall into the Sin of the Elder Brother.* While the younger one walked away from the father’s house after taking his share of the Father's property, the elder one kept himself away from the father’s house out of annoyance and in protest for his perceived “injustice” of the father in receiving the younger brother. Just as the Father welcomed the younger one home, the Father went out of the house to try to persuade the elder one back to re-enter the house. The behavior of the elder brother is similar to our behavior when we deliberately decide to walk away from God or commit sin because we feel that God has not been fair to us. Do you feel like giving up on God? Think of the elder brother and meditate on the words the father addressed to him: “You are always with me and all that is mine is yours.” Yes, all these things you think God has denied you are yours. Remain Faithful. Do not keep yourself away from heaven in the end.

*5. Pray for Sinners.* Our final lesson today comes from our first reading which concludes by saying: “And the Lord repented of the evil (suffering) which he thought to do to his people.” One of the spiritual works of mercy is praying for sinners. This is a very important virtue we need to practice today. Moses as one man, stood before God on behalf of the entire nation of Israel to plead for God’s mercy and he succeeded in changing the mind of God toward the people. It is not enough to point out the evil in others, we must show love by praying for sinners.

Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, work in me the miracle of sincere repentance that I may never return to my past sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Exodus 32:7-11,13-14, Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,17,19, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-32).

© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu