24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19; Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love. (Psalm 51:3)
One of the very first things we do at every Mass is celebrate the Penitential Rite. We are invited to reflect silently on our sins and then pray, “Lord, have mercy.” The rite concludes as the priest expresses our common trust in God’s forgiving love.
It’s easy to slide over this ritual. If we happen to arrive a bit late, we feel we haven’t missed much. We tend to see the reading of God’s word and the Eucharistic prayer as the essential parts of the Mass.
Today’s Gospel reading, however, redirects our focus.
Before he could enter into the joy of his father’s celebration, the runaway son had to acknowledge his wrongdoing and journey home with words of repentance. It’s also likely that the boy’s older brother could not join the party because he didn’t grasp how dependent he was on his father’s mercy and provision.
God doesn’t proportion his mercy based on how deserving or sinful we are. No, his mercy is as great as his unconditional love. He offers it to everyone who asks. He stations himself on the road, eager to welcome the first glimpse of every beloved child who seeks to return to him.
From the sad example of the older brother, we can also learn the value of another reconciling moment during Mass: the kiss of peace. This is the point when we are invited to share the peace of Christ with acquaintances and strangers alike. This brief moment offers us the chance to seek mercy, to put aside anything that divides us so that we can receive Communion, one in heart and mind. This call for peace, unity, and reconciliation is crucial if we want to know genuine communion—both with the Lord and with each other.
So today at Mass, make sure you take advantage of these opportunities. Your Father wants to pour so much grace and mercy on you!
“Father, wash away my guilt. Cleanse me of my sin. I believe that you will never scorn a contrite, humbled heart.”