THERE IS JOY BEFORE THE ANGELS OF GOD OVER ONE SINNER WHO REPENTS
(Biblical reflection on the 24th Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 15 September 2019)
Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-32 or Luke 15:1-10 (shorter version)
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-11,13-14; Psalms: Psalm 51:3-4,12-13,17,19; Second Reading: 1Timothy 1:12-17; Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-32 [Shorter version: Luke 15:1-10]
The Scripture Text:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to her Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10 RSV)
Most city folk might think the shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep in the pasture while he searched for the one that was lost was foolish to leave the flock unattended and vulnerable to attack by wild animals. However, that was not the case. No shepherd would purposely expose his flock to any kind of danger.
Because a very close relationship existed between a shepherd and his sheep, the shepherd gave each of his sheep a name and a sheep came whenever it heard the shepherd calling it. The shepherd in the parable not only knew a sheep was missing but also knew which one it was. This close relationship between the shepherd and the sheep made caring for the animals easier. Several shepherds often combined their flocks in a single pasture and then took turns watching them. They didn’t worry about which shepherd owned which sheep. All a shepherd had to do was call his sheep by name and they would come running because they knew his voice. Therefore, the shepherd in today’s Gospel did not leave his flock unattended when he went in search of the one that was lost, but left it in the care of another shepherd.
The parable about the woman who swept the entire house looking for a single coin might sound a little ridiculous because it’s difficult for us to imagine anyone going through all that trouble for a small sum of money. The explanation for the women’s actions lies in an understanding of ancient courtship and marriage customs.
An unmarried woman often wore a special headband or head covering made of coins or precious jewels that, like a dowry, would go to the man who married her, The headband may have been very elaborate or could have looked as simple as a bent wire on which she strung coins with holes punched through them. The more coins of jewels, the easier it would be for the girl to attract a husband.
A girl like the one in today’s Gospel was not rich if she had only ten coins on her headband. Losing one of those coins would greatly reduce her chances of marrying a suitable husband. Therefore, she would sweep the entire house until she found it. She would then have good reason for celebrating.
Both parables end with scenes of great joy. Jesus used these stories to teach that there will be great joy in heaven when we repent and return to our heavenly Father. When was the last time you asked God to forgive your sins?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 316-317.)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know that You love every lost child in this world. Touch their hearts today. Nudge them homeward. Uphold them, guide them, and protect them. Lord, restore them to the joy of Your salvation. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 September 2019
A Christian Pilgrim