Reflection on the Gospel-24th Sunday in Ordinary Time C (Luke 15:1-32) -Veronica Lawson RSM
Diverse creatures of the earth as well as earth elements feature in the gospel for this week of the Season of Creation. While all three parables in today’s gospel reading invite us into the experience of loss, loss of a valued creature, of a woman’s means of survival, of an adult child’s respect and presence, they likewise invite us into an encounter with God who seeks and “saves” the lost, be they human or other-than-human, and who rejoices big time when the lost are found.
These Lukan parables are prefaced by an account of the criticism Jesus endured for hosting “the lost” of the human community, namely the toll collectors and those who were categorised as “sinners”. The critics in the story are those who consider themselves “righteous”. They have no room in their hearts for compassion or forgiveness and no capacity to accept the goodness of a prophet who acts in ways that cut across their expectations.
“What person (anthropos)) among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he/she found it?’ asks Jesus of his critics. The lost sheep is found and ultimately embraced by the community. The ensuing celebration is likened to the celestial banquet where there is more joy over one who repents than over those who have no need of repentance. Repent/repentance on the part of the sheep may seem a strange choice of words since the lost sheep simply responds to the initiative of the shepherd who goes after it and returns it to the fold. Jesus may be suggesting that we need others to shepherd us in turning our lives around.
In Jesus’ second question to his critics, “Or what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one…search thoroughly till she found it?”, the pattern is repeated. The drachma, enough cash for one day, is lost, sought, found and the community rejoices. Occasionally in the biblical tradition, as here, God is imaged as a woman. God is the diligent female householder who seeks and saves what is lost. The third story features a parent who is willing to overlook the delinquency of a wayward child when that child is impelled by hunger to return home. In every case there is joy when the lost one, whether human or animal or mineral, is found. That’s how it is with God. If our faith does not bring joy to the lost, to the poor, to the marginalised, to asylum seekers, to endangered species, then it is not of God. Our faith is in God who saves and brings joy to the whole Earth community. No single image can contain the compassionate, loving God of these parables. The invitation to the believing community is to find ways of opening our hearts, and the hearts of the unforgiving in our world, to God’s action of seeking and saving the lost-here and now, not simply in the afterlife.