1) Pastoral mercy
In addition to giving his profound and beautiful teaching Jesus’ parables show God’s point of view. That is what happens in today’s parables where Christ tells about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son underlining the “Gospel’s heart” that is merciful love.
Already in the first parable we can see a behavior that is not human, or better, senseless from a human point of view. To the question “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Lk 15:4) we would respond “No one”. Which man of sense would leave 99 sheep alone in the desert and go after the lost one in spite of the danger of the desert at night?
The desert’s dangers are hunger, thirst, robbers, beasts, and loosing orientation in the darkness of the night, which makes it almost impossible to carry on the search. Christ the divine good shepherd is moved by a love that is humanly senseless but divinely logical and therefore goes in search of us.
God continues the search of us since the time man has hidden himself in the Garden of Eden and down to the netherworld. For Him we have more value than himself. In fact it is true that He died for us.
We could say that our search for God starts when God had finished his founding us, forgiving us and celebrating with us.
In the parable of the lost and found sheep, it is underlined that the shepherd doesn’t stop his search until the sheep is found. It is an obstinate and unflinching search and the shepherd is determined not to leave the sheep to its destiny. We understand that the shepherd’s decision was not senseless but on the contrary it was a courageous one being born out of a courageous intelligence and of a heart that loves intensively.
This allows me to point out that this parable in the same way as the two others, ends telling about the joy of God for having found the sheep, the coin and the son “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:10)
We can found two teachings. The first one is clear: to God’s eyes man has a limitless value even and because he is a sinner. The second one is implicit: divine Joy “grows” with the found glory of an only sinner.
2) Motherly mercy
Similar in essence is the second parable, the one of the lost coin[i] .
Here too the search for what has been lost is carried out in a methodical way. The woman lights the lamp and puts it in the best position, then sweeps slowly and with lot of attention the entire house, looks with care[ii] until she finds the lost coin. When she has found it she calls her friends and neighbors so that they can rejoice with her about the “coin lost and found”. If in the first parable that tells about the Shepherd (that in the Jewish world meant also the King) we can see the ” pastoral” love of the one who guides, in the second parable we see the “eager” love of the mother that turns upside-down the “world” to search for the “treasure” that is the reason of her life, her son.
A woman and a mother very well knows the value of a son and in this parable we see that it represents God who with infinite motherly and paternal love, “does his utmost” to search the precious lost coin.
We find an example of this in the consecrated Virgins. They are called to motherly “do the utmost of themselves” praying begging forgiveness for the sinners, offering their prayer in intercession (RCV 28) for the lost ones and above all for the ones who have lost faith in the divine mercy, and in taking the everlasting forgiving love of God where they live and work.
3) Paternal mercy
Here is the third parable. If for a coin and for a sheep there is celebration in heaven, you can very well image how happy is God when the ‘found one’ is a man, a lost and found son.
This son, that is called prodigal because he has wasted the paternal inheritance and now is extremely poor and hungry, is ‘lost’. He has lost the knowledge of the beauty of his identity. He has lost the joyful memory of the father’s look and of his mercy. This page of the Gospel is an announcement that carries joy for us: when we feel of being ‘lost’, let’s give ourselves to the one who is searching for us and let’s trust his great love. This is the Father’s will. We are precious to His eyes.
In this context we understand the meaning of the reading from the Exodus (Roman Rite) where the people of Israel, liberated from slavery, often forget God up to the point of “making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it and sacrificing to it.” For this they should deserve God’s punishment, but the master forgives them because of the moving and profound prayer of intercession of Moses. In the same way the apostle Paul (second reading) states that Jesus was born to save the sinners. He feels that he is a big sinner… but he was pardoned.
Mercy is the expression of the omnipotence and of the infinite, tender and adult, caring and demanding love of God: it is God’s image.
Let’s use often to the sacrament of Reconciliation that is to make in us the coming home of the prodigal son.
The experience of sin that is “to be lost”, becomes the occasion for more lasting and true encounter with the God that “ persecutes”[iii] us with his merciful love and rejoices because he has found us.
[i] At Jesus’ times one coin was the daily pay of a worker
[ii] The Greek word epimelos means “with care, with attention”
[iii] From the Latin verb PERSEQUI, made of PER and SEQUI= to follow, meaning “to follow with constancy and zeal.” From it come “ to persecute” and “ persecution.”
Go to the comment of the same Gospel- IV Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2013.
XXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C- September 15, 2013
Ex 32: 7-11, 13-14; Ps 51; 1 Tm 12-17; Lk 15:1-32
Found by God
III Sunday after Saint John’s Martyrdom
Is 43:24c-44,3; Ps 32; Heb 11:39-12:4; Jh 5:25-36
Christ’s actions testify that the Father has send Him