Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
September 15, 2019
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-32
To undergo a change of heart or to be disposed to choose a different course of action is a characteristic of the human person. Whenever one realizes that a particular lifestyle is hurting one’s family and adversely affecting one’s relationship with the people one loves, the resolve and determination to undergo a change of heart for the sake of one’s loved ones is humanly possible. In the Second Reading from 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Paul tells the story of his journey through a change of heart from being a persecutor, a blasphemer and an arrogant man to experiencing the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
Paul accuses himself of persecuting the followers of Christ and he calls his activity an act of ignorance. Paul’s persecution of the followers of Christ promotes fear, insecurity, displacement and separation of families and even leads to death. Acts 8:3 tells us that Paul goes into the homes of the followers of Christ and arrests men and women. His persecuting of the followers of Christ leaves children at home without their parents. He presides over the death of the followers of Christ like Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). Second, Paul accuses himself of blaspheming against the religious beliefs of the followers of Christ. Paul disparages their religious beliefs making it impossible for them to worship openly and freely. Paul’s uncharitable remarks about the religious beliefs of the followers of Christ might have promoted prejudice against them. Third, Paul confesses his arrogance. Paul’s arrogance does not only come from a feeling of religious and cultural superiority over the followers of Christ he is persecuting for their beliefs. His persecution of the followers of Christ comes from a feeling of self-importance, larger than life ego and patriotic zeal that goes far more than his peers (Gal 1:13-14). Because he is a blasphemer, persecutor and an arrogant man, Paul calls himself a sinner for treating others and their values with disdain.
Now, Paul has experienced a change of heart and consequently, he has embraced a different outlook towards life. He attributes his present outlook towards life to “the grace of our Lord” that “has been abundant” in his life (1 Tim 1:14). Elsewhere, Paul identifies his present life as one lived in Christ (Gal 2:20), who has treated him mercifully and with divine patience (1 Tim 1:16). The result of Paul’s present outlook towards life manifests in his dedication to the ministry of making Christ known in the world. Paul’s newfound outlook towards life brings him to a deeper appreciation of the oneness of the human family (Gal 3:28). He spends his life promoting unity among Jews and non-Jews, among wealthy Christian communities in cities of the Roman empire and with poor Christians in the Jerusalem church. In fact, Paul goes from the foremost sinner who caused pain to others and separated families to one who unites families and brings together people of different backgrounds.
I am convinced that Paul’s life is an example of what happens to us when we experience the power of God’s grace. The grace of God is a divine enabler to do good and to live in right relationship with everyone. Wrongdoing has no dominion over the children of God, who are under grace (Rom 6:14). The children of God ought to be in service of one another and the world with the gift of the grace of God that has been given to them (1 Peter 4:10). Therefore, the children of God should take the lead in resolving conflicts, initiating reconciliation, establishing peace and working towards harmony among all.
Rev. Ferdinand Okorie, CMF
Instructor of New Testament Studies
Director of Bible Study and Travel Programs