I’d like to start off with a short hymn. Please join me if it’s familiar to you.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found.
Was blind but now I see.
This is one of the most famous Christian hymns and was composed by John Newton. John was an Anglican minister, but his early life was not what you would have expected. In the mid 1700’s John Newton was a notorious slave trader. John lived a life of immorality, but in his own words, “made it a study to seduce and tempt others to a life of debauchery”. John’s mother taught him Scripture at an early age, but she died when he was seven. His father was a merchant navy captain and by the time he was eleven John traveled the sea with him.
On one of the journey’s a huge storm had raged for 11 days. The ship was battered and one side was almost completely destroyed. John was so exhausted that he had to strap himself to the helm to keep awake. For eleven hours he fought the raging storm and had much time to think about. His life was a wreck that was going down like the ship in the storm. He recalled a Scripture that from Proverbs:
But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
Then they will call to me but I will not answer.
John felt he was beyond hope and being saved.
As I prepared the homily for today the beginning of first reading stood out to me:
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
Call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts:
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
To our God, who is generous and forgiving.
Isaiah’s prophesy was to call the lost sheep of Israel back into a relationship with Him. God’s response was one of mercy and forgiveness and not of vengeance for their misdeeds.
Are we really trying to seek the Lord? I suspect so, because you are all here. But we all know people who are not. Many of them are our own family, friends, and co-workers. How can we help them to seek the Lord? It may be hard to do for some of us. We may have known them for a long time and think they are beyond hope. We may have a strained relationship with them. Our thoughts may be like the first workers in the vineyard who answered the call and toiled the longest. We deserve our compensation, but why should someone living a sinful life for years receive the same reward as we do? This seems unjust in our human way of thinking.
But as we heard in Isaiah:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
God generously offers his grace of mercy and forgiveness to those who seek him. Even to those who have lived are sinful lives and seek him very late in their life. This can be very hard for us to understand, but its’ Gods way.
How can we be instruments of God’s love and mercy? First we can continue to seek the Lord ourselves and live following his ways. Second, we can invite others to seek a relationship with God. One good way to start is to pray for those who don’t have that relationship. For some that may be the only thing we can do. We may not be able to invite others due to strain in relationship we may have with them. But God can place others in their lives who can do so and we can pray for that to happen.
If we have a good relationship with them we can invite and welcome to begin to seek the Lord through the sacraments. This may be through RCIA or Welcoming Catholic Home that we have going on in the parish. It could be as simple as inviting them to attend Mass with us. The Sacraments provide the opportunity to directly encounter Jesus to provide strength and healing. We can be God’s instruments of mercy and forgiveness to invite others to work in the vineyard.
Returning to John Newton’s battle at sea it seemed he was beyond saving. But as the storm raged John’s thoughts turned to Christ and he transformed his life. John turned to Bible Study, prayer, and Christian reading and He tried to be a Christian example to the sailors and slaves on ship. He left slave-trading and later felt a call to ministry where he preach of Gospel of Christ for over 42 years in Olney, England. There he composed many hymns over the years to support his services, one them being, “Amazing Grace”.
So as we continue with to receive the Eucharist continue to seek the Lord, and help others to do so as well. Regardless of when we turn to the Lord or the sins we’ve committed, God will be generous in his mercy and forgiveness. God’s grace is abundantly offered to all who seek the Lord.