26TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
Well here we are at the weekend once more and again we are at the end of the month of September as we look towards the month of the Rosary, October. During the past week the order of the Sisters of Mercy (RSM) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Mercy International Centre at the foundation house in Baggot Street Dublin. In 1827, Catherine McCauley established a ‘House of Mercy’ in Baggot St and there she and her companions provided food, clothing, hospitality and education for many of Dublin’s poor. In 1831 she founded the Sisters of Mercy, and the first Mercy house of became her first convent. Today there are thousands of Mercy sisters working all over the world. Baggot St is now the International Centre of the Sisters of Mercy. I take this opportunity to pay a personal tribute to all the mercy sisters who have done so much for the people here in Northern Ireland and in particular here in north Belfast where I live. From education to healthcare they were at the forefront and the backbone of so many apostolic works that may not have otherwise been undertaken particularly here in Belfast and so many other places.The first pioneering sisters came to Belfast in 1854 and threw themselves into the educational and social work for which they would soon become renowned and I take this opportunity to thank God for them and all they have done and continue to do within the communities where they live.
Our readings this weekend are really all about the mercy of God. From the first reading which is about the sinner who decides to turn away from his sinful ways to choose life to the second reading where we are encouraged always to consider the other person to be better than yourself, and then the gospel Jesus is teaching his listeners through this parable. He is telling the pompous and self-righteous to beware. Jesus says they are out of line, off track, and in danger of not entering the kingdom of heaven. He says that it is risky for them to think they already know everything and ignore the fact that what they do is not pleasing to God. Jesus surprises them by responding favorably to the actions of the tax collectors and prostitutes who may have gotten it wrong at first but have since repented and come back Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out God’s perspective of the right thing to do. How fortunate for us that Jesus advocates and even applauds repentance and the prodigal who comes to his senses comes back to God the Father!
When we empty ourselves of our desire for status, position, respect, then we are like Christ, who humbled himself. For the Christian, empty means full. We empty ourselves of our concern for our self and find for ourselves that we become more Christ like. We often come upon the scripture passages where the Lord tells us to pick up our crosses and follow Him. We know that this means accepting our suffering so the world can be filled with sacrificial love, and the Kingdom of God might grow. But we usually just relegate these passages to the way that we handle crises. Today’s second reading is more expansive. It tells us that to follow Christ we have to change our attitude in life to be like His. We have to be like the One who humbled Himself. This is difficult. It is difficult because pride is so deeply rooted in each of us. But through the Grace of God we can conquer pride. And then we can be the people that God needs us to be for His Kingdom. Christ is the victor, even over our pride. And because He can conquer our pride, “He makes us an eternal offering to the Father.”