15 September, Sunday – The lost, the least, the last

15 Sep 2019

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Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 15:1-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’
He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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I have found my lost sheep

At the lift landing in front of the Adoration Room at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, hangs a painting. The scene is that of today’s Gospel on the Prodigal Son. Do spend a moment to look at the painting if you have the opportunity. There are some interesting subtleties weaved into it. The painting depicts shadows of the main protagonists, which essentially reveal what is truly behind the actions that are visible in the painting. The one that left a deep impression is that of the father, in his old age, ambling towards the son who has returned and is running towards his father. The shadow of the elderly father, however, shows him running at full speed, arms outstretched towards his son. It was poignant in the way it was able to convey the desperation of the father to embrace his son, of how much he missed the son, how deeply he longed for his return, how relieved from the endless years of worry at finally seeing that his son was alive and safe, how long-awaited and joyful the anticipation of finally being able to hold his son again in his arms…the son whom he thought was forever lost. But who, who in his heart, could never still worry about and hope for his return?

God our Father loves us. That we all know, kind of. My take is that most of us do not know how much He loves us. We cannot fathom this in full, because He loves us with Divine Love whilst our love is only human. That’s why His love is beyond anything we could ever experience in the limits of our frail, fallen and foolish human nature. It is the divine and incomprehensible love of our Father that makes the impossible possible for us. Because nothing is more powerful than that love which throws everything out the window to come to the rescue, so long as one of His own is in danger, hurt, wounded, broken, lost, astray, in peril of mortal danger and eternal damnation; who cries out in desperation to the Father’s love. So long as that one of His own chooses to be loved and saved by the Father, nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in the way of that saving love.

The longing of the Prodigal Father lies not in his inability to enter into the lives of His children, but in the inability of His children to turn to the saving love of the Father. We remain lost, broken, tired, frustrated, in despair, in desperation, in oppression, the least, the last, so long as we continue to choose to be so. By holding ourselves out from our Father’s love for us. Our Father is ever waiting for us to allow Him to save us, to heal us, to console us, to protect us, to provide for us, to redeem us, to comfort us, to guide and lead us, to love us. That moment comes when we finally realize we cannot save ourselves because we realize we are indeed the lost, the least and the last. But take courage, it is precisely because we have our Father’s love that the lost, the least, the last become the found, the greatest, the first. It is what He exists for. It is what He sacrificed His own Son for. It is what our faith is all about – the relationship of us loving God and God loving us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We are so clueless about the love you have for us which is immeasurable, unknowable but yet so abiding, unchanging and unchangeable. Help us to come to see and experience that love. And to be saved by that love.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for time and again, your loved has lifted us from our nothingness and our unworthiness. For all the times, in your love for us —  you allow us the privilege to be found, to matter, to be first in your heart.

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