Ex. 32:7–11, 13–14 / Ps. 51:3–4, 12–13, 17, 19 / 1 Tim. 1:12–17 / Lk. 15:1–32 or 15:1–10
The episode in today’s First Reading has been called “Israel’s original sin.” Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from his ways, and fell to worshipping a golden calf.
Moses implores God’s mercy, as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race, as he still pleads for sinners at God’s right hand and through the ministry of the Church.
Israel’s sin is the sin of the world. It is your sin and mine. Ransomed from death and made his children in baptism, we fall prey to the idols of this world.
We remain a “stiff-necked people,” resisting his will for us like an ox refuses the plowman’s yoke (see Jeremiah 7:26).
Like Israel, in our sin we push God away, reject our divine son-ship. Once he called us “my people” (see Exodus 3:10; 6:7). But our sin makes us “no people,” people he should, in justice, disown (see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Peter 2:10).
Yet in his mercy, he is faithful to the covenant he swore by his own self in Jesus. In Jesus, God comes to Israel and to each of us — as a shepherd to seek the lost (see Ezekiel 34:11–16), to carry us back to the heavenly feast, the perpetual heritage promised long ago to Abraham’s children.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” Paul cries in today’s Epistle. These are the happiest words the world has ever known. Because of Jesus, as Paul himself can testify, even the blasphemer and persecutor can seek his mercy.
As the sinners do in today’s Gospel, we draw near to listen to him. In this Eucharist, we bring him the acceptable sacrifice we sing of in today’s Psalm — our hearts, humbled and contrite.
In the company of his angels and saints, we rejoice that he has wiped out our offense, celebrate with him — that we have turned from the evil way that we might live (see Ezekiel 18:23).