In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, the molten calf has been built and the rebellious people have offered sacrifice to their god. The Israelites wanted to worship something they could see, touch and feel, not God Himself who gave them life, freedom and direction. This incident is a metaphor for Israel’s relationship with God. They were a people who constantly disobeyed and rebelled against God. But now, because of Israel’s idolatry, the Lord no longer identifies them as “my people”; they now belong to Moses. Moses’ plea to the Lord is both audacious and unselfish. The Lord listened to such an impassioned speech and turned away from the threatened punishment. In spite of Israel’s infidelity, the people remain the Lord’s own.
In the Second Reading from St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy. This reading fits in perfectly with the theme of mercy found in the first and the Gospel reading. Paul tells us that prior to his conversion, having formerly been a blasphemer (for rejecting Christ), a persecutor of Christians, and an arrogant man, he experienced the greatest of graces in being treated mercifully by Christ.
The Gospel Reading is taken from the Gospel of Luke. In this long Gospel Reading we have three familiar stories: The Good Shepherd, The Lost Coin and finally The Prodigal Son or, The Forgiving Father story. The parables show God searching for sinners and experiencing great joy when they repent and come to him. In addition to helping the Pharisees and the Scribes to see God’s love for sinners, Jesus also wants to open the eyes of the Pharisees to the fact that they too are sinners. Jesus wants the Pharisees to see that they too are in need of God’s mercy.