User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes

Sunday, Sept. 12, is the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).

Sept. 14 is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This Tuesday, pray the Sorrowful Mysteries knowing that today is a reminder of Good Friday. It originally commemorated the legendary discovery of the true cross by St. Helena. The story of that discovery has a great symbolic power. Her son, Emperor Constantine, is said to have seen a vision of a cross in the sky and the words “Under this sign you will conquer.” It caused him to legalize Christianity. To the extent that he saw Christianity as a means to victory, his understanding needed to be purified. That’s why the story of his mother literally digging into the place where Christ lived and uncovering a cross and nails taught a valuable lesson: The cross, more than a means to future victory, is a past victory that needs to be unearthed and inserted into our lives today. Pray for the grace to “rediscover” the victory of the cross in your life.

Sept. 15 is Our Lady of Sorrows. Some are familiar with the “Seven Sorrows” Chaplet. Others have a set because they thought they were buying rosaries only to discover that each “decade” had seven beads instead of 10. If you have a set of those beads, today’s the day to pray the Seven Sorrows Chaplet. The dolors:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34 and following).

2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13).

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43).

4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26).

5. The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25).

6. The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57).

7. The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40).

Today’s Readings
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

Our Take
If the Triumph of the Cross is a mini Good Friday, today is a mini Divine Mercy Sunday, with readings that focus on the mercy of God. But as part of that focus, the readings also make another important point: They show us the value of sinners.

In the first reading, Moses appears to be reminding God about the value of his chosen people. Looked at one way, this reading is about how prayer can get a response from God. Looked at another way, it’s about the efficacy of prayer to create a change in the petitioner. Moses’ concern for his flock forces him to stick up for them to God, strengthening his bond with them, allowing him to recognize God’s magisterial place, and forcing him to learn in a dramatic way that God’s law comes from his concern for sinners. What better way could God teach that then by forcing Moses to face this dire situation with courage?

The Gospel teaches a similar lesson. There are many wonderful lessons to draw from the parable of the Prodigal Son: We have written about it here before. Jesus tells this story to answer those who complain that he “welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

It is tempting to give up on sinners, to avoid their company because they are a bad influence, and to generally treat them as second-class citizens. The story gives at least two reasons not to:

First, we must never give up on sinners because God doesn’t. Just as the father in the parable waits on the road every day for his lost son, God is waiting and looking down the road for us. The reading from St. Paul reminds us that prodigal sons don’t just come back — often they come back and outdo us in generosity.

Second, we can’t avoid sinners because there is no other option. We are all sinners — the older brothers among us as well as the prodigals. If we refuse to eat with a sinner, we won’t be able to eat with anyone — or, for that matter, with ourselves.

Religious people too easily fall into cliquish ways that severely limit who we come in contact with. Jesus didn’t do that. You can start right after Mass. Who would Jesus talk to? The same old crowd — or that person the same old crowd seems to avoid?

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.