HOMILY FOR TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)
Dear friends. One group of people we don’t thank enough are those who volunteer for search and rescue missions. I think of the Slaney Search and Rescue team here in Enniscorthy, the RNLI people around our coasts and the coast guard personnel who rescue lost and injured people from rivers, the sea, from mountains and anywhere they have wandered.
For me, the sacrifices these people make to search for people who are lost is a small but significant expression of the searching mercy of the Father that is common to all three beautiful parables told by Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel – the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and of course the Prodigal Son. For those who volunteer to search for missing people, their work is dangerous. It involves sacrifice, often of their lives to find another. It goes beyond borders and as far as it takes to find the person missing. The huge effort of so many speaks of the value of the person missing and that he or she is some parent’s child.
The same is true for the love of God the Father as Jesus reveals it in the three parables. His love is searching of the one who is loved and yet lost. His search is prepared to take risks and meet danger as we see with the Good Shepherd. His search reveals how valued is the person sought after and how God never gives up on any of us. So often we talk about our search for God, our search for happiness and our search for meaning. But these parables are all about God’s search for us and how the Father pursues us with his mercy while respecting our freedom. So in the light of these parables, are we searching too hard and in the wrong places for happiness and contentment? Am I running away from the God who longs to be known as my loving Father? Am I like the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son – lost?
If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ then these parables offer hope. What all three have in common is a call to come home to God and to our true selves. Only then can we find joy. Notice how all three parables end in rejoicing. There is a party, a celebration of joy because things and people have been found, brought home and united in the Father’s house. When we are in the Father’s house there is joy. When we are far away from it, there is only misery and resentment. Look at the two sons in the story. The prodigal son returned to his Father’s house after falling into misery and humiliation. But the older brother is also outside the Father’s house and is miserable because of his resentment. The house in the parable is symbol of coming home to God for ‘in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is unending life, joy and communion’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1720).
Friends. If you know anyone who works in the area of rescue missions and emergency response, thank them for all they do. They make visible the merciful love of a God who never stops seeking out the lost and those who have forgotten him. Let us allow ourselves to be found and be brought back to the Father’s house where the joy he offers us is much greater and more wonderful than what we could create for ourselves. God is the source of our joy for he is the God of joy and mercy. Let him find you, today.