Crazy! A Homily for the 24th Sunday of the Year

091413Crazy! – The three parables of today’s lengthy Gospel challenge our conventional thinking. All three of them are quirky and describe people doing things that we most likely would NOT do. In fact all three of them, especially the first two, seem crazy. Who would ever do what the shepherd of the lost sheep and the woman of the lost coin do? No one, really. Likewise the Father in the Story of the Prodigal Son breaks all the rules of “tough love.” His forgiveness has an almost reckless quality. No father of Jesus’ time would ever tolerate such insolence from his sons. It just wasn’t accepted. So all three of these parables, at one level, are just plain crazy.

But that is one of the most fundamental points Jesus seems to be making here. The Heavenly Father’s love for us is just plain “crazy.” I do not mean it is irrational by using this word, but it does stretch the limits of our human thinking. Neither do I intend irreverence by using the word “crazy.” Permit a preacher’s hyperbole so that we can enter into the astonishing quality of God’s love and mercy. It cannot be understood or really explained in human terms. Who really understands unlimited and unconditional love? Who can really grasp the depths of God’s mercy? His grace is “amazing” in that it goes completely beyond my ability to comprehend. It transcends merely human concepts. Thank God! If God were like us we’d all be in trouble, frankly, we’d all be in Hell.

Let’s look at each Parable. The Gospel texts are too lengthy to reproduce here. But you can read the whole of it here: Luke 15

I. The Parable of the Lost Sheep The Lord speaks of a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to search for one who is lost. Would a shepherd likely do this? Probably not! The passage drips with irony, even absurdity. Perhaps if the lost sheep was near at hand he might venture over the next hill. But the average human shepherd would cut his losses and stay with the ninety-nine. Many of us might even consider it irresponsible to leave ninety-nine to search for one.

Some people try and make sense of this parable by appealing to possible shepherding practices of the First Century. And while theories abound, this seems to miss the point that God’s love is extravagant, personal, and puzzling. In the end, it would seem that God loves us for “no good reason.” He seems to love us even “more” when we stray. He intensifies his focus on the one who strays. To us this is not only crazy, it is dangerous, possibly enabling. But don’t try to figure it out. Don’t analyze it too much. Just be astonished, be amazed. Yes, this is crazy. That God loves me is crazy, unexplainable.

II. The Woman and the Lost coin A woman loses a drachma. It is a small coin. Not worth that much really, perhaps one day’s wages for an agricultural worker. In modern terms less than $100. Not insignificant, but not really huge amount either. She sweeps diligently for it. So far, this seems reasonable. I’d probably look around a while for a missing “Benjamin” ($100 bill).

But then it gets crazy. She finds it and rejoices to such an extent that she spends most, if not all of it, on a party celebrating the found coin! Crazy!

But that is exactly the point. God doesn’t count the cost. He doesn’t weigh his love for us in terms of if it is “worth it.” Some commentators try to explain the craziness away by suggesting that perhaps the coin had sentimental value as part of her dowry or ceremonial head-dress of ten coins. But here too, over analyzing and trying to explain or make sense of it may well miss the point.

This woman is crazy because God is “crazy.” His love for us is extravagant beyond what is humanly reasonable or explainable. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t analyze too much. Just be astonished, be amazed. Yes, this is crazy. That God loves me is crazy, unexplainable.

III. The Prodigal Son A young son, entitled by law to a third of the Estate (since he was the younger son) tells his Father to drop dead. He wants his inheritance now and the old man isn’t dying fast enough. Incredibly the father gives it to him!

Crazy! No father in the ancient world would ever tolerate such irreverence and insolence from a son. The Father is a nobleman (land owner) and could hand his son over to serious retribution for such dishonor. The son leaves his father and goes off to “a distant land” where he sinks so low, he ends up looking up to pigs. He comes to his senses, rehearses a speech and returns to his father, hoping only to be a hired worker.

But here’s where it gets even crazier! The Father sees him a long way off (meaning he was looking for him). He does something a nobleman would not do: he runs. Running was considered beneath the dignity of a nobleman since it would imply he was either a slave on an errand or a fugitive running. Further, in order for a person to run in the ancient world, they had first to gird the loins of their garments. Since the garments were long flowing robes they had to be “hiked up.” Otherwise, the legs would get tangled in the garment and the person would trip. But for a nobleman to show his legs was considered an indignity.

Get the picture? This nobleman, this father, is debasing himself, humbling himself. He is running and his legs are showing. This is crazy. Do you know what this son has done? Does he deserve this humble love? No! This father is crazy! –

Exactly! The heavenly Father is “crazy” too. He actually loves me and humbles himself for me. He even sent his own Son for me. Do you and I know what we have done? Do we deserve this? No! It’s crazy.

The second son is also a handful. When he hears of the party for the wayward brother he refuses to enter. Again this is unthinkable in the ancient world for a son to refuse to report when summoned by a father. What does the father do? He comes out and pleads with him!

Again, crazy! Unthinkable. No father in the ancient world would ever permit a son to speak to him in the way this second son spoke. The son basically calls him a slave-driver who issues orders and refuses to enter the party that his father is hosting. He says he’d rather celebrate with his friends than with his father. But (pay attention here), the goal in life is not celebrate with your friends. The goal in life is to celebrate with the Father in heaven.

This father is crazy. He is crazy because God the Father is crazy. Do you know what it is to refuse to do what God says? And yet we do it every time we sin! The heavenly Father should not have to tolerate this. He is God and we are creatures. If he wanted, he could squash us like a bug. But he does not. The father in this parable is almost “dangerously” merciful. Shouldn’t his sons learn a lesson here? Shouldn’t he punish them both for their insolence? Yes, all our human thinking kicks in.

But God is God, not man. There are other scriptures that speak of his punishments. But in the end, none of us get what we really deserve. The point of Jesus here is that God is merciful and his love is crazy. It makes no human sense. His love for us is extravagant beyond what is humanly reasonable or explainable. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t analyze too much. Just be astonished, be amazed. Yes, this is crazy. That God loves me is crazy, unexplainable.


And here is a video just because I couldn’t resist:

15 Replies to “Crazy! A Homily for the 24th Sunday of the Year”

  1. The Good Shepherd: He can actually leave the 99 to search for the 1 while still being present to the 99. Because He can, He does. It is His Nature. See?

    The Woman and Lost Coin: He rejoices because we are all just as precious as the other to Him; it is as if each of us were the only one present to Him, the only one beloved by Him, yet we are all present to Him…individually in His love for us, and as a group in His justice for us. This is why we must forgive each other – since His Mercy for us individually must always be respected/weighted more than our human desire for justice because He loves us individually that much, as if we were all that He has.

    Indeed, the Father is “crazy” in love with us. He is Father because He is not to be outdone by anyone in His Love for us. The name “Father” represents the strength of His love – that it has authority over all else.

    It is too much for anyone to accept right now; it can not be explained fully since not many can accept the truth.

  2. I left a comment on an older article about a week ago.

    I don’t know if you missed it, or if you’ve just not had a chance to reply yet, but I thought I’d mention it just in case you had missed it. I’d really appreciate a reply, if you have the chance. Thank you, Monseigneur.

  3. I loved these readings today exactly for the crazy love factor. Thank God He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but pours out His love upon us. Beautiful, beautiful reflection. God bless you.

  4. Total, unconditional, irrevocable, merciful and gracious LOVE!!! Yes, crazy and stupendous, too. Am I glad, the FATHER’s LOVE is profoundly and extravagantly this way, otherwise, if HIS Justice is applied to me, am a goner. Thank you, FATHER. YOUR Love for us is everlasting!!!

  5. Msgr. your comments seem to suggest we should just accept, without trying to understand, God’s love.
    You make a good point about God’s love being ultimately beyond our ability to fully comprehend.
    But in your efforts to illustrate this, you seem to discouraging the very fruitful search and discovery of the riches of Gods love in our spiritual lives, lived in our intellect.
    You must be aware that many people today think of God as a senile benevolent old man that always wishes us well, regardless of what sins we commit.
    Your approach seems to encourage this kind of thinking.
    Referring to God’s Love as “unconditional” is also misleading in this context.
    We must all repent from our sins or we will be punished forever.
    “God will not save us without us”

    About prayer and meditation; “trying to figure it out”.
    Saint Augustine’s makes many references to our life in the church being, “faith seeking understanding”
    Saint Paul says some thing similar to Timothy that “…God our Saviour…will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
    You seem to contradicting saint Paul and saint Augustine when you suggest about God’s Love;
    “Don’t analyze too much”
    “Don’t try to figure it out.”
    “trying to explain or make sense of it may well miss the point”

    Ultimately we can never fully comprehend God, but we should always strive to increase our knowledge and understanding for our greater happiness and fulfilment while here on earth.
    God IS Love, so to know Him is to love Him.
    The more we know Him from a repentant heart, the more we will love Him as He reveals Himself.
    When we pray and meditate on God, it is a way of “analyzing” “trying to figure out” and ” trying to explain or make sense of it” in His sight.

    1. Hey Bro. Francois, read again the Gospel. Did the son shouted ‘here I am, Dad!’ that the Father ran towards his prodigal son to embrace him? Was the prodigal son, able to finish his sentence that it became the cause for the FATHER to accept him and be given a ring and sandals? Was the FATHER unaware of the eldest son being angry at the brother and his FATHER for granting the son to become part of the family again? Go deeper in your heart, Brother and you will conclude that The FATHER’s LOVE is unfathomable by our standards. Go deeper in your heart, Brother and you will conclude that The FATHER’s LOVE is unconditional. If you use your mind, Brother about HIS kind of love, which is a total mistery, you’ll go crazy, hehehe. If you can fully understand it, then you are God. It is Grace, Brother. GOD Bless you, Brother Francois for your name means ‘free man.’ Shalom!

      1. In the parable, the prodigal son first came to himself and realized his fault and unworthiness. and while he was still a long way off the father came running to him just like when we repent God comes to us while we are still far from Him. God always waits for us to repent and His love is quick to give once we do. Gods Love is greater than we can know but it is not entirely unknowable. The problem with overstating the lack of ability man has to totally comprehend His love is to stifle the search for Him. I don’t think you are right in saying “If you use your mind, Brother about HIS kind of love, which is a total mistery, you’ll go crazy, hehehe.”
        This is exactly the kind of statement that discourages the search for God, who has made us in his image and likeness and wants all men to come to the knowledge of the Truth.
        The mind we use to find Gods Love is the mind He has created to know love and serve Him in this life so that we can be with Him in the next. We are made by Him to recognize “HIS kind of love” as you say.
        It is a Love filled with mystery that is fruitful to meditate upon.
        Do you object to the use of our mind when meditating on God? Don’t you realize that love is done with the will.
        There is a common error in the world that equates love with an emotional feeling.
        This is what this blog seems to be permitting and even encouraging.
        If your idea of love is emotional, then there is no rational reason behind it and to chase after it with your reason is a futile effort and could possibly make you “crazy”. But this is not God’s Love.
        Although there can be an emotional response to Gods love in a person with a clean heart, it is a mistake to see the response as the Love that made this response possible.
        Without the proper use of reason enlightened by the true faith handed down to us fro Jesus to guide a soul, there is no way of being sure where these feelings come from. Isn’t the devil able to appear as an angel of light?
        All of the great saints have warned against following feeling and sentiment and advise following the true deposit of faith.

        1. Francois, I couldn’t agree more. Further, it’s difficult to take seriously other reflections on Jesus’ stern words, the reality of Hell, the “few” who become disciples, etc. if we only see that God is “crazy.” Many people are doing this, I believe, with Pope Francis. God is so good that the distinction of sin is being swept away. I am not saying Pope Francis is trying to do this consciously, but people are getting this impression.

  6. And so once again God sets for us an example to follow, to take up our cross and follow Him.

    In following Christ, there are those who are paraded about and made a spectacle of, who do not curse but bless those who in their hearts would want to see them suffer and die. Yes, “we are fools for Christ”. We too are considered “crazy” by the world but by God we are blessed.

  7. There was no pitch correction software when Patsy Cline recorded. In some ways, God is utterly predictable. For example, the law of gravity. In other ways, God is quite capricious. For example, those floods in Boulder, CO.

  8. Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

    Without the Tree of the Cross there is no redemption.
    Without the Tree of the Cross the gates of heaven will not open.
    Without the Tree of the Cross there is no resurrection.

    The Tree of the Cross is the Tree of Life.

  9. “There are other scriptures that speak of his punishments. But in the end, none of us get what we really deserve.”

    This is what I don’t understand. What should be made of those other scriptures then? Just hot air? (No irreverence intended.) Are all of God’s words true or aren’t they?

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