Sunday 24 (Year C) – Luke 15:1-32

I heard during the week of an Australian policeman who has been working for many years in the highlands of Papua New Guinea with the local tribes people there. For many generations their custom has been to seek vengeance for any slight or injury through violence, and consequently the incidence of injury by axe and machete is very high. But through this policeman, slowly this community is discovering a different way of dealing with conflict – the way of justice. We could dismiss this as just being the behaviour of people who are much more primitive then ourselves. And yet…

Today, many people around the world are remembering what we were doing nine years ago, when we heard about the events of September 11, 2001. I was on a silent retreat, so it was only when I went to Mass that morning that I heard the brothers in the monastery pray about the events in the Prayer of the Faithful. I am sure that everyone here is able to tell exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news; news that continues to have ramifications across the world, as Australia continues to be part of the so-called coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. We also heard during the week of an American pastor who thought that the most appropriate response to a mosque being built near ground zero was to burn copies of the Koran. All of these responses are simply one level of responding within the boundaries of justice.

But although we worship a God of justice, our God is so much more than just. He doesn’t just deal with us according to the demands of justice – he treats us with the mercy that we never deserved. This is one of the reasons that the Pharisees – good, God-fearing, upright and religious men and women who are faithful to the demands of the law, and cannot understand how this Jesus person can bear to share with these notorious tax-collectors and sinners. Unlike St Paul, himself a former Pharisee, who knew that he never deserved to be treated specially or that he deserved to be saved, these people think that they merit the kingdom of God because of their good works and deeds. It is in that context that Jesus tells the three parables that comprise the whole of Luke 15 – the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.

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Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (7’50”)