September 15, 2019 — Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings focus on the personal, passionate and merciful love of God, which should fill us with unending gratitude to Him. This gratitude is the fuel that keeps the stewardship way of life rolling along.
In our First Reading from Exodus, we see the Israelites whom God has just rescued from slavery, behaving like ungrateful brats. The Lord provides them divine rescue from their enslavement, and they turn their backs on Him to create a false idol in the form of a molten calf to worship. What hubris! Yet, Moses pleads for God’s mercy towards them, and once again, God grants it in abundance.
In our Second Reading, from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, we find a grateful Paul who says of himself, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated… Indeed the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul is well aware of the sins he has committed. But this does not hold him back from ministry. Rather, it makes him all the more grateful to be God’s steward. How encouraging to know that this is true for us, as well. Our past sins, and even our present struggles, do not disqualify us from becoming God’s grateful stewards.
In fact, the more we have been forgiven and live with the awareness of our continuing need for forgiveness, the deeper our gratitude to God, and thus the more fuel we have in our tanks to live the stewardship way of life.
Jesus Himself gives us several poignant illustrations of His merciful love in today’s Gospel reading from Luke. Let us focus on one in particular — the story of the lost sheep. Jesus begins this parable by asking, “What man among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?”
The natural response is no one! It simply does not make sense to spend the time and energy searching for one lost sheep when there are so many others to tend to. But God’s logic — God’s mercy — defies human logic.
Jesus does go after the lost one and continues to pursue him “until he finds it.” And when he finds the lost one, Jesus does not bring him back into the fold begrudgingly, with annoyance and frustration at having had to go after him. No, He brings the lost one back with great joy, carrying him upon His own shoulders. And who is the lost one? It is every one of us when we stray away from God through sin, great or small.
What gratitude we owe to such a personal, passionate, loving God! Just think — even our sins, once forgiven, become a source of fuel for our stewardship way of life as we reflect with deep gratitude on the powerful mercy of our Savior.
How can we demonstrate our gratitude to such a God? By living as His good stewards. We thank Him by offering back to Him the very best of ourselves — the talents He has given us (to use for His glory), the time He has given us (to spend with Him in prayer), the material resources He has given us (to advance His kingdom).
In so doing, we can make the words of St. Paul, former enemy of Christ, our own stewardship motto: “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry,” We must keep rolling, Christian stewards!