One day Jesus and Satan were arguing about who had the greatest computer skills.
They argued and argued. When they had drawn a crowd of onlookers and were still going at it hot and heavy, the angels-- fallen and not--started to take sides and make bets.
Well God had had quite enough of this and decided to intervene.
He told Jesus and Satan that there would be a programming contest between the two that would settle the argument of who was better.
They both began program-ming day and night to win the contest. They were at their computers for an eternity when ZAP came, a flash of lightning from God, and their screens went blank.
The day of reckoning had come.
“Well, let's see what you have done”, said God.
So, Satan reboots his computer calls up his program and the screen is blank. Nothing!
He turns, and looks at Jesus.
Jesus reboots his computer, calls up his program, and an infinite universe appears: Colorful, luminescent, in breathtaking 3-D, with populations of people and animals, building, working, eating, loving, giving birth, and dying.
“THAT'S NOT FAIR!!” shouted Satan. “How could he do that? He has cheated!”
“Oh, no,” God said, “Jesus saves.”
We are living in a world that is not perfect but still in need of redemption. We need to be redeemed from sin and from the bondage of sin. Sin has separated us from God and from one another. Sin has caused human beings estranged from God. When we are estranged from God, we are also alienating ourselves from one another. We are not able to recognize one another as brothers and sisters. We exploit others for our personal gains and advantages. We don’t know how to live in peace with one another. Consequently, there are wars between nations and enmity between groups. Though modern computer Internet technology has brought the world closer, but sin, hatred and violence in the world have kept hearts and minds of people in the world divided and distant from one another.
This weekend is our 9th commemoration of the September 11th attack of the World Trade Center. This date brings back a lot of sad memories for our nation. This attack brought our nation into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The national sense of hurt, anger, suspicion, fear, mistrust etc. has again appeared on headlines news and frontpages. For example, our people are divided on the issue of building an Islamic mosque center near Ground Zero in New York. Some people say it is a right thing to do; others say it is an unwise thing to do. Still others say it is insensitive to do it. We are still at lost and trying to sort out our feelings. A pastor of a small Christian church in Florida was planning to burn Qurans on this Saturday September 11th which has caused international outrage.
Mexico, our next door neighboring country, within the last two weeks, 72 migrants from Central and South America were massacred in the border state of Tamaulipas; the mayor of a small town, Hidalgo, was assassinated by the drug cartels; and a federal prosecutor disappeared. Only in the last four years, there have been 28,000 drug-related homicides in Mexico.
Obviously we are at lost and in need of redemption. Politically, socially, economically, and spiritually we are not in good shape! Our nation is not in good shape! The world is not in good shape! We need redemption!
This is not only true in our time, but throughout human history. The first reading tells us that the people of Israel have become depraved. They forget that God has saved them from slavery and is leading them to their freedom. They turn their hearts away from God. They make for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and declaring it to be their God.
Just imagine, how disappointed you would feel if you had raised your daughter, put her through school with good education and helped her to have an established career, but she would turn away from you and ask a strange man to walk her down the aisle and give her away at her wedding? It really hurts you doesn’t it? This is what the people of Israel are doing to God. This is what many of us are doing to God. We do not show adequate appreciation to God! We have made so many molten calves to worship. We have offered many sacrifices to molten calves of this world. We are being lost. But a strange thing is that God has not given up on us.
Through Moses’ intercession, God relents his punishments on the people. Moses is the image of Jesus in the Old Testament. Moses implores God’s mercy on behalf of the people of Israel. Jesus is giving his life as the offering to God on our behalf.
The parables in the Gospel reading today gives us hope and comfort. The Pharisees and scribes complain that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. According to their understanding, Jesus is a godly man; therefore he should separate himself from sinners. If he wants to be considered among their ranks, he should act more like them. He should dissociate himself from those tax collectors and sinners.
The Pharisees and scribes are correct in their observation that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them; but they are incorrect in their judgment about Jesus. He doesn’t have to separate himself from sinners. That is Jesus’ practice, his purpose and his mission, his trait and his character. He comes into the world in order to save the world. He comes to search out sinners in order to save them. Righteous and healthy people do not need him; sick people and sinners do.
Jesus is giving us hope in these parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. In both parables, the sheep and the coins are lost. What does it mean to be lost? It means being separated from God. The lost ones are either not able to or do not know how to make their way back. The sheep is alone in the wilderness. The coin is at a place it should not have been. The lost do not know where they are. They do not know how to make their way back to where they belong. Sometimes they do know where they are, but are helpless or too weak to make it back on their own. They are waiting to be rescued. Sometime they are not sure whether they will be accepted if they choose to return.
These two parables tell us that Jesus is welcoming all back. He is doing everything and by every means to get us back. He is searching for us. He is strengthening us with graces through the Church’s sacraments. The hallmark of these parables is that God is trying to tell us, “I Love You!” Every one of us is important to God and to Jesus. He is delighted to find us. Heaven is rejoicing when we are found! God is overjoying when He sees us returning home and be united with Him again. He wants us to believe HIM.
I remember reading a Peanuts cartoon strip in which Lucy comes up to Charlie Brown and does something that is very unusual for her. She says, “I love you.”
But Charlie Brown keeps responding by saying, “No, you don't.”
And each time Lucy answers a little louder, “Yes I do, I really love you.”
But Charles Brown has been rejected so many times he keeps saying, “It can't be true.”
So in the last square, Lucy has reached the limit of her patience and she screams out in a loud voice, “Hey stupid, I love you!”
God has been trying to tell us in centuries that He loves us! But very much like Charlie Brown, we continue to doubt God’s love. He might have to yell like Lucy, “Hey blockhead, I love you! What else God has to do in order to convince us that We Are Loved?