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A reflection for the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mara D. Rutten, H.M. reflects on the readings for September 11, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C)

Exodus 32:7 – 11, 13 – 14
Psalms 51:3 – 4, 12 – 13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12 – 17
Luke 15:1 – 32

Reflection: God waits for us with outstretched arms

I don’t remember what the infraction was, but it must have been bad, because my mother met my father at the door. “You will not believe what your daughter just did,” she said. My father looked past her to where I sat at the kitchen table. He seemed less curious about the offense than his connection to it. “Oh, so now she’s my daughter?” he replied.

I wasn’t the first kid to be in enough trouble that my parents wanted to temporarily disown me. Broken windows, playground fights, or artistic masterpieces in Sharpie on the walls could bring any parent to their breaking point. But we knew that they still loved us, because you don’t get that angry without being invested in a person. Despite what they might say in exasperation, we were theirs.

Even God had such a moment, in the first reading today from Exodus. The Lord had just, quite spectacularly, brought God’s people out of Egypt. While God and Moses were conferring on the mountain, the Israelites threw a party and fashioned for themselves a golden calf. Seeing this, after having left them alone for one minute, God was enraged. “Moses!” God said, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of Egypt, for they have become depraved!” God had had enough of this kind of behavior. “I’m going to destroy them,” God promised, “and make another nation.”

But Moses, a family man with a little experience in this area, interceded. “What do you mean, my people? Lord, these are your people that you brought out of Egypt. I know you’re angry, but think for a minute about how much you love these descendents of Abraham. Would you really have brought them out of slavery just to destroy them?” And the Lord relented, because despite the stress, disappointment and rejection, God did love them, and had just shown the world how much by entering into history to rescue them from bondage, an act the Jewish people remember to this day. God was a loving father to the Israelites, protecting them from the dangers of the world, instilling in them good values, and correcting them when they erred. They were God’s.

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Jesus tried to help us understand this kind of love in the story we call “The Prodigal Son,” but should probably be named “The Loving Father.” The young man who takes his inheritance and leaves—rejects—his father to pursue his own interests could be any of us in our relationship with God. We are stiff-necked people, wanting to live our lives the way we choose, and determining for ourselves what’s most important. Anyway, what’s so wrong with having a little fun? But when we see the error of our ways, when we realize that we don’t have all the answers and maybe our Father does know best, Jesus shows us that we can always come home. Despite our mistakes, whether we deserve it or not, God waits for us with outstretched arms, because God loves us, and we belong to God.  

About the author

Mara D. Rutten, H.M.

Mara D. Rutten serves as the historian for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and is a candidate with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

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