Recovering the Lost

Luke 15: 1-10
Phil. 3:3-8a / Ps 105:2-7

I tell you, in the same way there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.
(Luke 15:10)

Be God’s instrument of conversion,
Bring a lost sheep back to His fold;
As Jesus showed in His mission,
In this task everyone is called.

Tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the scribes muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable: “Who among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them doesn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and seek the lost one till he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one will not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.” (Luke 15:1-10)

Reflection

The Pharisees and teachers of the law who were scandalized by Jesus’ mingling with tax collectors and sinners must have felt that their criticism was justified in the light of the very first chapter of Psalms, which reads: “Blessed are those who do not keep company with sinners.” (Ps 1:1) But the psalm referred to those who tolerated or even enjoyed the sinful activities of bad company. To illustrate His true intention, our Lord related the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, and finally followed them with the most beautiful parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

The message that our Lord wishes to impart is that conversion or deliverance always comes first as God’s initiative. Even in the absence of repentance on the part of sinners, His acceptance of their company could be the first step in the right direction for their lives. The important thing was that He was seeking them out, because, as He said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mt.9:13)

Jesus asks us, “Who among you, having a hundred members in your community, and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine and seek out the errant member, and try to bring him back to active status?” As God’s shepherds, how much of His love and compassion have we received here in our community that we can be as passionate in keeping all our brothers and sisters in the fold as we are in inviting new members to our fellowships? How concerned are we when one of our brothers takes a fall? Do we find ways to get him into a one-on-one dialogue? Or are we instead relieved that he is no longer attending our fellowships and prayer assemblies?

Our Lord shows us in this Gospel reading that we must be willing to get our pristine-white clothes dirty in order to find a lost sheep or a lost coin. He Himself, the Creator of the universe, became a man to elevate us to His glory and kingship (setting us on His shoulders). Even in our sinfulness, in the name of love, because He is Love, He took a big gamble not only in becoming a man (vulnerable to temptation), but in offering us a place in His divinity, sinful though our nature may be.

Teach us, dear God, to imitate our Good Shepherd: to discard our prejudices and our feelings of righteousness, and to seek out brothers who have wandered away from our flock. After all, we are all sinners; we are all in need of repentance. Amen.

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