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Fr. Tim’s Homily for September 11th, 2016

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

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Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

 1 Timothy 1: 12-17

Luke 15 : 1-10

 

This weekend we remember the nearly 3,000 people that lost their lives as victims of the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, fifteen years ago today.  We pray for all of our men and women in military service, our police, our firefighters, and all of our first-responders.  And we pray for the men and women that lost their lives, and we remember their families and friends and all who loved them.

We love and serve a merciful and compassionate God.   But we can wonder, “Where is the mercy and compassion of God today?”

I thought perhaps a Charlie Brown story might help us.

Charlie Brown is leaning against a tree talking with Lucy.  She asks, “What do you think security is, Charlie Brown?”

Charlie answers, “Security is sleeping on the back seat of the car at night when you’re a little kid, and you’ve been somewhere with your mom and dad.  You don’t have to worry about a thing.  They will get you home safely and tuck you in your bed.”

Lucy smiles and says. “That’s real neat.”

Then Charlie Brown, who never seems to know when to stop, gets a serious look on his face and says, “But it doesn’t last.  Suddenly you’re all grown up and it can never be that way again.  You’ll never get to sleep on the back seat again.  Never!”

Lucy gets a frightened look on her face and asks, “Never?”

And Charlie Brown replies, “Never!”

They stand there, sensing the terrible loneliness.  And Lucy reaches out and says, “Hold my hand, Charlie Brown.”

A writer adds:  “A bittersweet comic strip that registers so true today.  ‘We’ll never get to sleep on the back seat anymore.  Never.’  Our old securities have been shattered.  War abroad with difficult enemies, war at home with biological terror stalking our steps, the heightened fear of nuclear war, checkpoints, baggage searches, latex gloves, air marshals, long lines.

“We are learning the uncomfortable stance of always looking over our shoulders.  We’ve suddenly become a nation of Lucys:  ‘Hold my hand, Charlie Brown.’”

Or, as we might pray today, “Take my hand, Precious Lord.”

The Scriptures this weekend all speak of God’s mercy and compassion.

In the first reading from the Book of Exodus we heard Moses pleading with God for the Chosen People.  They had sinned seriously.  But God in His mercy and compassion listens to Moses and withholds punishing the people.

The Responsorial Psalm that we sang was Psalm 51, and here is the opening verse:  “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.  In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense.”

In the second reading, Paul’s Letter to Timothy, Paul says:  “I am the foremost (of sinners) but I have been mercifully treated.”

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus tells parables about a lost sheep and about a lost coin that were found.  And Jesus says: “There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We do love and serve a merciful and compassionate God.  And we do see evidence of this if we take the time to notice.

My final story:

One day a very wealthy city man took his pampered son on a trip to the country, supposedly to visit some distant relatives who lived on a farm.

What the father really had in mind was to show his son the way country folks live so that he might be more grateful for what he had in the city.

On their way back home, the father asked, “Well son, what did you think of the trip?”

The son replied thoughtfully, “Very nice, Dad.”

The father continued, “What did you learn?”

The son responded, “Well, I learned that we have one dog in our house, but they have four.

“Also, I know we have a fountain in our garden filled with goldfish, but they have a whole trout stream that goes on and on.

“And, you know, Dad, we have those fancy outdoor lights that turn on and off with timers, but they have the stars!

“And while our yard goes to the edge of our neighbor’s fence, they have the whole sky in their back yard!”

At the end of the son’s reply, the father was speechless.

Then from the quiet his son said, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me just how poor we really are.”

The writer adds: “God removed that father’s illusions.  But not, of course, the son’s:  he was still too innocent to have any.

“God wants to break in and run off with all the self-centered preoccupations that prevent us from being merciful and compassionate and, most of all, from sharing our time with our families, with our friends, with the poor and needy – and our time with our God.”

Our world is very different from the one that we left when we went to bed fifteen years ago on September 10, 2001.  “Suddenly we can never sleep on the back seat anymore.”

But one thing has not changed, and will never change:  we love and serve a merciful God, and we see evidence of God’s compassion all around us, if we take the time to notice:  in our parishes, in our families, in our friendships, in our communities.

As we reach out to others who need us, it is Jesus who takes hold of our hands.

“Hold my hand, Jesus.  Take my hand, Precious Lord.  Take my hand.”