Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

September 15, 2019 – (24thSunday in Ordinary Time)

Exod. 32:7-11, 13-14     Ps. 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19     1 Tim. 1:12-17     Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

Introductory Comments

  • Most of us are not used to thinking of “progress” or “development” as undesirable or evil. But when those concepts lead us to think of nature as just a collection of resources for us to use to meet our needs or desires without regard for the lives of people or destruction of nature, they contribute to creating the complex socio-ecological crisis that Pope Francis condemns.
    • When they fuel large corporate mining, infrastructure construction, and agro-industrial mono-cultivation as they are now doing in the Amazon, they are too often destructive of the Web of Life and threaten its survival.
    • When they serve the dominant culture of consumerism and waste, money and power, they need to be identified, according to Catholic Social Tradition, as forms of idolatry.
    • And when our actions increase the incentive for these operations, we participate in the idolatry.
  • Today’s liturgy challenges the idolatry of wealth and consumption in today’s world while assuring us of God’s forgiveness and readiness to welcome our return, what Pope Francis has called our ecological conversion. And it points us toward the mission that God is offering us despite our past sinfulness.


Penitential Rite Suggestion

(It should be noted that although the Roman Missal gives various optional formulations for the penitential rite, it also allows for “other invocations. These are intended to help shape the community’s repentance” in accord with the scriptural message of the day.)

As we begin our liturgy, let’s enter into the quiet of our spirits, asking for greater consciousness of the sinful threats to the Web of Life, greater trust in God’s loving forgiveness and mission for us.

  • Creator God, for all the ways we participate consciously or unconsciously in the idolatry of wealth and consumption, of destructive forms of so-called “progress” or “development,”

Creator Spirit of God, have mercy.

  • Christ Jesus, you welcomed sinners and ate with them, assuring us of God’s eager readiness to welcome us back in joy.

Word of God, have mercy.

  • Holy Spirit of God, the true Source of wisdom and understanding, You are raising up people in movements around the world in mission to resist the idolatry of wealth and consumption and overcome waste, injustice, and destruction of the Web of Life.

Wisdom of God, have mercy.

May God, Creator of all cosmic time and space and the vast Web of Life in which we live, have mercy on us, free us from our sins, and guide us into the fullness of divine Life.                 Amen.


Points for Reflection on the Scriptures

  • It is a common principle of spiritual life that when we know God’s love and are confident in God’s forgiveness and acceptance, it is easier to acknowledge our sins and turn from them.
    • The Pharisees criticize Jesus in today’s gospel because he “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus does that because his mission is to embody God’s love and forgiveness. His parables put that revelation into striking words and images: joy over recovering the lost sheep and coin, joy over return to life of the prodigal son.
    • Paul, after his conversion, writes to Timothy and acknowledges his blasphemy, persecution, and arrogance. He points to how mercifully he was treated by Christ Jesus “because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”
      • How do you know of God’s mercy and forgiveness for you? What experience has revealed that to you? How can you renew your confidence in it, your sense of gratitude to God, your freedom to look at your life and your actions clearly, as Paul did his, without fear?
      • Ask God to renew that sense of God’s forgiveness and love for you.


  • The golden calf in today’s first reading from the book of Exodus is an apt symbol for the idolatry, the “worship” in the world today of lifestyles, values, and visions of “the good life” that disregard and quietly sacrifice poor and marginalized peoples, nature, and the Web of Life in the name of “progress” and “development.”
    • Those who support the dominant visions of “progress” and “development” claim that the path to achieving them is greater economic growth.
      • Earth Overshoot calculations measure each year how quickly the human family uses up the resources that it will take Earth a full year to replenish. This year Earth Overshoot Day is July 29th. [ the reflections for the 1stSunday in this series.] Earth cannot replenish the resources as fast as the human community is using them up.
      • Economic growth is usually another term for production of more goods. It can only increase the overuse of Earth’s resources and further destruction of key elements of the Web of Life.
        • How does this affect your way of thinking about your future?
        • How can you begin to question the calls for more economic growth on our limited planet that is already suffering from destructive patterns of overproduction and unjust distribution of resources and wealth?
      • It is easy to participate in and support the dominant culture of consumerism and waste, money and power that Catholic Social Tradition sees as a form of idolatry without being aware of it.
        • For example, there is clear evidence of the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia and the Amazon for the expansion of palm oil plantations.
        • Palm oil is thought to be in about 50% of packaged products in supermarkets today: all sorts of foods, soft drinks, bread, cosmetics, chocolate. The list is too long to quote. Demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
        • That demand is driven by global demand for a vast array of consumer goods that are unexamined parts of everyday life for billions of people around the planet.
          • Do you know how you are part of this picture? Do you know what consumer goods you buy and enjoy that contain palm oil? Do you know if that palm oil is sustainably farmed [this can be done] or if its suppliers are among those destroying rainforests to enrich themselves while endangering the survival of the Web of Life?
          • Do you know the groups that are working to end this threat to the Web of Life and how you might support and join this work against a contemporary form of idolatry?
        • Palm oil is only one of the ingredients responsible for rainforest destruction present in well-known and common products. By the 2000’s, more that three-quarters of forest clearing in the Amazon was for cattle ranching linked to global hamburger chains.
          • We can ask ourselves the same or similar questions about almost everything that we consume.


  • When Paul experienced the mercy, forgiveness, and love of God in Christ, mercy because he “acted out of ignorance in my unbelief,” he was moved to accept Christ’s call to ministry to share this Good News.
    • How can you/we accept the mission that comes with our growing consciousness of the idolatry that is so dominant in the world today, so destructive of the global Web of Life?
    • How can you/we become apostles of the integral ecological conversion that is at the heart of Christ’s call to discipleship in today’s world?
    • On Friday, September 20th, young people and adults around the world are invited to join a Climate Striketo demand that world governments commit to stronger, more transformative action at the September 23rdUnited Nations Climate Summit in New York City. One week later on Friday, September 27th, all are invited to join Earth Strikefor a second general strike.
    • Can you/we take part in one of the demonstrations in our area? Or organize one? Do you/we know what your government is prepared to do at the Summit? Can you/we encourage their generous participation and strong commitment to fight climate change?


General Intercessions Petition

  • That we may rejoice in God’s mercy and forgiveness, we pray
  • That we may open our eyes to the unconscious ways we are part of the idolatrous and destructive actions and dynamics in our lives today, we pray
  • That we may embrace Christ’s mission for us to conversion and healing care for creation, our common home, we pray 

    James E. Hug, S.J.