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RCIA – The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Reconciliation

September 11, 2010

Opening Prayer – Father in heaven, Creator of all, look down upon your people in their moments of need, for you alone are the source of our peace. Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflect a moment on the experience of the Israelites turning to worship the golden calf. The Israelites had been freed from the slavery of the Egyptians by a loving and protecting God. They are on their way to a land flowing with milk and honey which this God had promised to them. Yet here they are turning to the worship of a golden calf, an idol to replace God, before Moses even returns from the mountaintop. (RCL)

Are you surprised by the actions of the Israelites? Why or why not?

The golden calf is an idol, a false god. What are the modern-day golden calves or idols that our world, our society, place before us to worship?

Fancy cars and houses?

Movie or sports stars?

Tolerance – in the name of everything but Christianity?

Others?

How do we respond to these idols? How do we recognize them? What idols do we have in our own lives that cause us to turn away from a loving and caring God?

We may turn away from God to worship false gods; it makes God angry. He was ready send his blazing wrath down on the Israelites, but Moses pleaded with God and He relented. Reflect a moment on a God who relents.

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1st Reading – Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14

What do we see in this passage of Exodus? The people rebel against God and yet, God forgives them. God, through Moses, has been pointing his people in the right direction, yet they are “a stiff-necked” people and decide to worship false gods anyways. Then, through Moses’ pleading he begs God to remember His covenant with Abraham, God relents and forgives His people even though they failed to keep their end of the “bargain.”

What are some ways in which we are the “stiff-necked” people who frequently return to former ways rather than change our way of doing things even when we know better?

2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Paul, formerly Saul, had been a persecutor of Christians. He came to Christ with blood on his hands. Paul admits his guilt and gives thanks and praise to God for the mercy he has received. Paul attests to the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Recounting his own sins guards against pride, incites gratitude and serves as an example that no one stands outside the mercy of God. There is no sin that God will not forgive. (RCL)

Why is it that we sometimes think that there are some sins that just can’t be forgiven? Name the sins that are difficult for us to forgive.

The Gospel – Luke 15:1-32

Great care is taken to find what is lost. Each search concludes with a celebration when the lost is found. The celebration extends outside to include the community. Whether it’s the shepherd or the woman or the father, each depicts the joy of God when one who is lost is found. The reconciliation of the lost is naturally portrayed not as an exercise of grim duty, but as something that delights the heart of God – and can be expected to delight the friends of God as well. We also have the elder son who refuses to come to the celebration. The dialogue with the father reveals the extent of his alienation, both from his brother and from his father. The father reaches out to bring him in but the son refuses to accept. The father wants both sons to come to the party but will not choose one over the other. Each son is free to respond to the father’s invitation. (RCL)

We all have had times when we are either the younger son or the elder son. Reflect on those experiences.

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Reconciliation

Just what is reconciliation? It’s a willingness to reach out; an ability to name what separates people, recognition of one’s own participation in the alienation, a desire to be healed and to change one’s behavior or attitude. (RCL)

Reconciliation stories:

One woman’s journey to Catholicism – these are a series of CAF threads by “Agnostic,” a pro-abortion woman who stumbled upon a Catholic forum and subsequently had a St. Paul type conversion. See the links: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=263562, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=264050, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=265026, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=267953, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=275426, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=276392.

The Church’s ministry of reconciliation: In the incarnation of Jesus, the initiative of divine love, seeks out every single human being to bring us back and welcome us to our true home with God. Jesus is imagined as the physician who provides the healing necessary for us to be made right with God. Jesus healed those who were not only bodily sick but also who were sick spiritually. (CCC 1503) There are many forms of alienation and bitterness, within families, between groups and races, between whole peoples, and between individuals. Efforts to heal, to bring together, to reconcile, properly belongs to the Church whose founder preached the parable of the prodigal son. In the message of John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentis (1984), he states that the good news message of Jesus and the mission of the Church is directed less toward the found and the saved, and more toward those who desperately need it, the lost and the scattered. (RCL)

And so who are the lost and the scattered? We all are. We all are sinners and in need of reconciling with God, with ourselves, with neighbor, with the whole of creation. God is constantly searching for us, calling out to us. And we need to respond. Some of us have responded, but due to human nature we continue to fall and God picks us back up again. Some of us hear God’s call and half-heartedly turn to Him. Others who hear His call completely ignore Him. And still others don’t even hear His call. Regardless of which of these best describes us, God will continue to search for us and when we come home all of creation will rejoice.

In our reconciliation with God He offers us forgiveness of our sins, our failings. We must also offer forgiveness to those who have caused us pain. This doesn’t mean we must totally dismiss the pain they have caused us, but forgiveness is essential. There is the phrase in the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us.” God expects us to forgive if we wish to be forgiven by Him.

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Putting Faith into Practice

Spend a few minutes each day this week focusing on the questions: With whom do I need to be reconciled and how will such reconciliation be achieved? The challenge is to seek out someone with whom we need to be reconciled and, if possible, to initiate such reconciliation. (RCL)

Closing Prayer: God of our lives, we pray for direction and steadfastness. Take away the darkness that sometimes overshadows us. Grant us faith that knows no limits, hope that never fails, and love that embraces all. Guide us to know your will and fill us with a desire to conform our wills to yours. Amen. (Paraphrase of prayer of St. Francis of Assisi)

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