24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 15, 2019
Jesus is speaking to a crowd made of tax collectors and sinners as well as righteous people like the scribes and the Pharisees. One side is delighted that someone is reaching out to them and the grumbling Pharisees and scribes who criticize him for hanging out with the wrong kind of people. He addresses the three parables to the righteous people. He is fully aware that what he presents as normal and reasonable behavior is in fact not normal for them.
The shepherd that Jesus talks about, who leaves the 99 in the desert to go and find the one lost sheep for most of his listeners and for us is not really a good plan of action. The 99 could wander away and be defenseless against a predator. The odds of returning with the one lost sheep and finding the other 99 safe and sound is pretty poor. I would not want to be the farm on that one!
As for the woman who lost a coin unless it was very valuable like a thousand dollars, is over the top when she invites all her friends and neighbors to help her to celebrate her good fortune. Even children today don’t bother to pick up a penny on the sidewalk anymore.
Talking about being over the top is the man with two sons, this would have really confounded his listeners as it does for us today. My grandmother used to say well he made his bed let him lay in it. Did you ever hear that bit of wisdom? When the younger son finds himself destitute from the bad choices he made and he is reduced to tending pigs and is even jealous of the pigs because they are eating better than him, we would most likely agree with the Pharisees that it serves him right. He got what he deserved. The Pharisees would have liked the older son who was loyal to his father and who had played by the rules. They would have agreed with the elder son who thought that his father was crazy because he was throwing a party for the one who squandered his father’s estate which would have come to him as the elder son. The elder son was right to say THAT’S NOT FAIR!
On the other hand the sinners and tax collectors were probably smiling at the Good News when Jesus said: there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance.
The father in the story gives us a glimpse of our heavenly Father. He sent Jesus to pour out his entire self lavishly on the cross to welcome us back home. In everything Jesus said and did, Jesus revealed God’s shockingly generous mercy. It is a divine mercy that is available to each and every one of us when we celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and each time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as we find ourselves at the foot of the Cross. God’s mercy does not hold a grudge, it patiently waits for us to repent and to begin our return and it is a mercy that welcome us when we return home after being away from God in our sins. We can say with one voice and one heart a thank you to our God and Father who goes out to greet each and everyone who comes back to him. Jesus have mercy on me a sinner!