of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

The message of God’s forgiveness is one that we are familiar with, but which the Lord still wishes to emphasise. Our human approach to forgiveness is so often flawed – we hold grudges, erect barriers, make demands and establish conditions. Jesus wants to remind his listeners – and us – that God’s forgiveness is overflowing and bountiful. Saint Paul was well aware of this: he had persecuted the Church, calling himself “the greatest of sinners”; and yet, thanks to the “inexhaustible patience” of God, he can count himself a believer. We must be open to the gift of forgiveness for ourselves, and also (as the Parable of the Elder Brother shows) open to that forgiveness offered to other whom we would condemn.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Exodus 32:7-11.13-14
There is a story in this passage: sin, pleading and forgiveness. It is important to highlight these, so that the links with the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son can be seen. The sin is not visible: it is described by God in the first paragraph: be careful with the words “apostasised” which is not a common English word: use the description of the Golden Calf to create a sense of God’s justified anger at the people he is trying to save. Moses is let off the hook – he will still inherit the promise – but he pleads for the people. This is quite bold: he actually reminds God of His promise! Make sure you have a tone of entreaty and earnestness in your voice. Finally – and if you are not careful people will miss it – the whole point of the story is revealed in the last two lines: God forgives the people, he relents. There should be a tone of relief here – but make sure you underline this part, so that the congregation realises we are talking about the mercy of God before we go into the Psalm.
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Saint Paul is being at his most personal – or, indeed, confessional – here. He describes to the young bishop, Timothy, his own experience of God’s forgiveness through Christ. This is a powerful reading, and is more straightforward than much of Saint Paul’s writing. You still have to be careful with his sentences and phrases, however – make sure you read them out loud beforehand, so that you can get the right emphases and tones. When preparing, and when reading, keep in mind a sort of ‘headline’, which helps you unlock the meaning of the words: this will, in turn, help those listening to you. Today, for example, you may simply take the words “Paul admits: he’s a great sinner, but Jesus had mercy on him.” Apply these words to every sentence, to understand what Saint Paul is going on about. There are some long words and awkward expression in this reading: it would be a shame if Paul’s soul-bearing were not appreciated by the congregation, so practice carefully.
Pompeo Batoni "The Prodigal Son""

From the Catechism

God of mercy
CCC 210-211

God takes the initiative in redemption
CCC 604-605, 1846-1848

The Prodigal Son as an example of conversion
CCC 1439, 1700, 2839

The Prodigal Son and the sacrament of Penance
CCC 1465, 1481

1439 “The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the centre of which is the merciful father: the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.”

Gospel Wordsearch

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