Hi everyone, here’s my homily for SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 15, 2013 – the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Thanks as always for reading! God Bless and have a great week – Fr Jim

The last two weeks or so, there’s been this fascinating story floating around that’s not only gotten interest on Facebook, youtube, and other internet sites but even major media outlets have picked up on it. It’s about a guy named Matthew Cordle. He’s a 22 year old who, a few months ago, went out for a night of drinking with his friends, got into a car, drove on a highway going in the wrong direction. Sadly, this resulted in the death of a 61 year old Navy Vet, father of 2 named Vincent Canzani.
Matthew decided to take to You-tube, in a “slickly produced, somber” video confession where he admits that he was “completely blacked out” when he got into his truck that fateful night. He says he wanted to come clean about this awful incident, as part of this social media campaign entitled, “because I said I would”.
That campaign or movement is well intentioned. They encourage the “bettering [of] humanity through the power of a promise.” But one has to wonder if Cordle will eventually end up being a good poster child (video child?) for that or not. Because while his video gained incredible attention (or ‘went viral,’ as they say) with something over 2 million views in a week, tons of comments and reactions (mostly impressed that this young man was taking responsibility for his actions) the prosecutors had some reservations and doubted his sincerity. Because when the video was new they noted that the incident had happened three months before and that, “He was already a prime suspect with his blood being tested for drugs as well as alcohol.” Even Cordle mentioning that he had “consulted ‘high powered attorneys’ who said that they could help get his blood test thrown out of court – before he decided to come clean, was a cause of doubt for the prosecutors who now simply had to believe he would do the “right” thing simply because I said I would.
So there was great anticipation this past week when he finally faced the judge. And then stunned the court room by entering a not guilty plea. The judge was furious as she said “Everything was going to be ‘guilty’ – I’m somewhat incensed by somebody who isn’t forthright with the court.” Spokesmen for the internet confessing superstar say that this was just a common legal maneuver that will “ultimately result in the admission of guilt.” We’ll have to wait and see if that in fact happens. Hopefully what inspired this young man to make this seemingly heartfelt and contrite video wasn’t a desire for fame (or infamy) but was sincere. Because the attention he originally generated carried an important message, important reminder about the dangers of drunk driving. Should this turn into some internet stunt in our society that already suffers from a new form of ADD: attention-desperation-disorder, it would be awful not just for us as a society but for Vincent Canzani’s family – who have already been affected by Cordle’s actions enough. Right now, it’s all kind of up in the air, no one really knows for sure what will happen – because all anyone has to go on Matthew taking responsibility is “because I said I would.”
Today’s Gospel – it’s kind of long, I know – and there’s a short form where we could have omitted, probably somewhat surprisingly to most people, the more familiar, more famous illustration that Jesus shares usually referred to as “The Prodigal Son.” To me that was kind of interesting – The first part where we hear about a lost sheep, a lost coin – they seem somewhat insignificant to our modern ears, especially in comparison to the Prodigal Son which 2,000 years later still seems highly relatable (and often probes lots of discussion and food for thought)
But let’s back it up a bit. Just a week ago we heard the scene, the speech that preceded this one where Jesus lays out the cost of discipleship (whoever does not pick up his cross and follow after me cannot be my disciple – remember that) In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains why that’s worth doing. How it’s not simply some sort of initiation we need to endure. Rather he’s explaining the depths of God the Father’s love for us, His Children. That God isn’t some distant cosmic thing out there that big-banged us into being and doesn’t care what happens like some disinterested entity.
He has a personal interest, a personal love for me, for you – for each and everyone of us.
As Jesus surveys the crowd in this scene from the Gospel, being Jesus, he can read hearts, souls. He senses the doubt. He senses the hope that people have that this is true. But this is sadly something that seems foreign or too good to be true to a great many people in the crowd – standing before him. So he starts sharing these images, examples of God’s love for us. A love of the most pure intentioned parent who never stops thinking of His children. Most especially when we are in trouble. That’s why these images are so powerful.
In our day and age, we would look at the shepherd leaving the 99 in search of the one as being unnecessarily reckless. Sure, that’s a shame that one of your sheep is gone Shepherd man…but seriously, you have 99 others here. But what that cooly, calculated, materialistic mindset misses is that the Shepherd loves the sheep – all of them. They are all valuable to him because he has been entrusted to care for them. And so he can’t stop worrying, somewhat tortured in his thinking did that one get lost? Did he get hurt? Have some wolves found him and attacked him? What has happened to my poor, frightened, lost sheep?
That’s similarly what’s happening with the widow searching for the one lost coin. We look at it as if she’s simply a poor woman trying to frugally hold onto what little she possesses. But look at it this way- if you had a coin that was worth a million dollars – or here’s a better example, when the powerball jackpot hits $500 million dollars and the computer’s calculate there is one winner in the state of New Jersey – what value is the ticket if you lost it? The value of the ticket is revealed when it is possessed. Jesus is trying to find ways to break into the doubt, the hesitancy we hold to these truths to tell us we are the sheep, we are the coin.
And yes, we can also be the prodigal son. We can be so thoughtless, selfish, hurtful to God, turning our backs on him – wishing he was dead (which is what is implied when the young man asks for his inheritance… basically he’s saying “I’m sick of waiting for you to die to get what’s mine, so can we cut to the chase, can you give me my share so I can bolt?”) That story of him falling deeper and deeper into depravity, and sadness, we can relate to that can’t we? Haven’t we felt at some point that we’ve screwed up, failed, squandered some opportunity that has left us scratching our heads how did we make such a mess?
The key to that parable to me has always been that one line While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion… He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. When you and I are a long way “off” – the Father is still there, looking for us. Jesus shares the depth of God’s heart with us. Revealing an eternal love story that began at creation, continues for all eternity and includes each and every one of us here and out there too. Telling us how He takes responsibility for each and everyone of us – because he said he would.

Sadly, we can be too jaded to appreciate these things… we see and hear so many things that make us question what can we believe. Leaders (both religious and public officials) have let us down abusing their authority by lying to their people…families experience broken-ness as parents aren’t faithful to one another or to their obligations to their kids which leaves us wounded and untrusting…even an impassioned confession on you-tube that seems so black and white, turns into something of a question mark leading many to frustratingly throw their hands in the air and become defeatist in our thinking, saying “you can’t believe anyone anymore.”

I really wonder if that’s why many of our brothers and sisters out there (and I’m sure some of us in here) aren’t so sure though. This gospel- It sounds good, it sounds legit, it sounds great. But is it just a story? The Father, speaking through the Life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus tells us it is indeed true – not simply because he said he would – but because he did. Because He created us. Because He saved us. Because He keeps retelling, recalling, proclaiming this story to us. Because He continues to search for us, look for us, wait for us – Sacramentally here at Mass in His word, in giving us His body and blood to feast on… In the Sacrament of reconciliation where we get to spiritually feel that embrace of the Father as we confront our sins, confess our sins and not see or hear judgment, but simply the joy of the Father in our being “found.” Can we allow Him to love us, and find ways to show we love Him, not just in words, in promises, but in action, in deed to the world around us?