for Sunday, September 11, 2022
A little while ago I spoke with a lady from another parish who was extremely
negative regarding the world. I guess keeping a news channel on all day, interspersed
with talk shows can make anyone negative. When you add to this the personal
troubles that are part of all our lives, perhaps the world might appear to be dark.
Anyway, this lady went on and on, "The world's going to hell in a hand basket. I don't
know why God puts up with us."
Why does God put up with us? Why is it that in the face of the abominations of
our society from the exploitation of the weak and helpless, the killing of infants, sex
trafficking, the continual wars supported by the industries of the developed countries,
why is it that God allows all this to continue?
The readings for today provide the answer. God is a God of Beginnings, not a
God of endings. He lets Moses begin anew with the Hebrew people even after they
turned to idolatry. Paul tells Timothy in our second reading how he had been a
blasphemer, arrogant, and a persecutor of the Lord's presence in the Church. But God
began again with him. The gospel reading presents three parables of God's beginning
again. Jesus tells about the shepherd who rejoices at finding a lost sheep. He talks
about the woman who finds the lost silver peace. He tells about the Father who takes
back the lost son.
Jesus relates these parables at a dinner as he sits and eats with tax collectors,
common thieves who used the Roman soldiers to help them steal from their own
countrymen. The holier-than-thous, the Pharisees and scribes, ask him how he would
dare make friends with people like this. Jesus' parable present a simple answer to this
question: God has not given up on them or on any of us. The God of beginnings gives
us an opportunity to start new.
"But Father, I have really done some low down things. I really bear a deep
responsibility for what happened in the disastrous first marriage. I did things when I
was young that I am ashamed to even think about. How can God forgive me for my
past?" He can forgive us because He wants to forgive us and because, well, He is
God. He can do all things. God forgives you and me because he loves you and me.
When someone loves someone, he or she is willing to give the offending person a
chance to begin again. God can and does forgive you and me because he is the God
of beginnings who sees all we can be, not just all we could have been.
And God values the results of new beginnings.
In 1958, before many of you were born, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected
Pope. He served for only five years, but he transformed the world with his openness to
God's love. Politically, he was most probably elected to keep the status quo in the
Church. But God used him to renew the Church. He started out with a bang, not
taking the name Pius, as the two popes before him, but taking a new name, one that
had not been used for centuries, John. John XXIII had a personal motto that he took
with him to the papacy and shared with the rest of the world. His motto was simple:
Now I begin. He sought forgiveness for the past each day. He renewed his personal
life every day. His determination to entrust his life to the God of beginnings result in
the transformation of the Church, notably in his calling the Second Vatican Council.
His Holiness was indeed a holy man. He is now Pope St. John XXIII. He was
canonized at the same time as Pope St. John Paul II.
Sometimes when people are negative, wondering about the world and God's
wrath, I ask them to look at our children. They are beautiful in many, many ways.
They are the new start the world needs. They are not just our projects, they are God's
special people created to transform the world. And the children themselves, by their
very being, transform us. Our cooperation with God's plan for them demands that we
live the ideals of his Kingdom. How many people return to worship because they want
the best for their children. Baptism and First Communion really become times of
graced moments for the whole family, They are the occasions of mothers and fathers
sincerely reflecting on their own faith lives and allowing God to revitalize their
spirituality for their own sakes as well as the sake of their children.
The God of new beginnings is aware of this. He loves us for the revitalization
we bring to his Kingdom when the words of Joshua become the guiding principle of our
lives, "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
So let's not give up on ourselves. We do not have the right to give up on
ourselves. Yes, we need to seek forgiveness over and over. Yes, we are human
beings who often make mistakes. But God loves us and is always ready to give us a
new beginning. He does this not just for us, but for the effect our new beginning has
on our children, and through them on the world.
"Now I begin," Pope St. John XXIII said. Today and everyday is the day for us
to begin. Every day is a new day in God's Kingdom.
Readings of the day:
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: