Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Counting the Cost
A very human reaction in every day life is to ask "How much will it cost me"? Human wisdom teaches us to count the cost, to cut our losses and to learn not to cry over spilt milk. The Scripture readings today tell us that God is not so calculating when dealing with us.

Exodus 32: 7-11; 13-14: The "Chosen People" had committed idolatry; they were to be punished, but, through the intercession of Moses, God forgives them unconditionally.

1 Timothy 1: 12-17: Paul, writing to his companion, Timothy, uses his own conversion as an example of God's willingness to forgive no matter how great the fault.

Luke 15: 1-32: Here we have three parables to illustrate God's desire to forgive as a measure of His Love for people - the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son.

First Point: There are times when, comparing the advice given in different parts of the Scriptures, we may be pardoned for becoming confused. At time we are advised to count the cost carefully and not to be fools dashing in where angels fear to dread; to calculate our resources before undertaking a major project, and so on. Then, at other times, it appears that we should abandon common sense and engage in totally irrational behaviour. Well, of course, it becomes a case of "horses for courses".

Point 2: The advice given in today's readings is to focus our attention on the difference in the way God loves and the way we respond to that love. God loves in a way that does not hedge bets, does not count the cost, computes no formulae, calculates no interest rates. God loves, and that is that. As proof of this we are told of the absurd fixation of the shepherd on a  single sheep; by human standards, anyone risking the rest of the flock for one lost sheep is a madman! Or to neglect nine silver pieces for the pursuit of one piece, and then throw a party costing much more than the value of the amount found does not add up in our estimation. And the treatment of the loyal, hardworking son in favour of the reckless spendthrift younger son prompts a "fair go, mate!" from our lips But, Divine Love is not bound by such standards. The whole history of Salvation shows this - the promise of the Messiah, the fulfillment of that promise in the Incarnation when God became Man, prompting St. John to make the point - "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.... We love because he first loved us". .[1 John 4: 10;19]

Conclusion: This image of God as loving rather than judging is in marked contrast to the fire and brimstone teachings of former years when the principal, motivating force for belief was fear. Today, Christ's message is more and more being presented as a message of love encouraging people to be generous in their attitudes to each other just as God continues to be generous with us. Our own experience of human love is that it sparks generosity which, at times, defies common sense - the expensive anniversary gift, or a gift for no reason at all when the money really was not there. But, more than any other way, love expresses itself best through forgiveness. "Forgive us as we forgive others" echoing Christ's own prayer "Forgive them, Father......" The parables that we have considered today may be described as the "parables of great assurance" - that God's love does not count the cost.

Scriptural reference: [1 John 4:20] Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.