The WORD in Other Words by Fr Roger Solis SVD (Philippines)
24th Sunday Ordinary Time, Ex 32:7-11, 13-14, 1 Tm 1:12-17, Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10
In Jesus: time, socializing with perceived sinners and sharing food with them was unthinkable from the perspective of both the Pharisees and scribes. It made one unclean; for Jesus it was a gesture of oneness and acceptance. This made the Pharisees and scribes all the more persistent in eliminating Jesus. For them Jesus was a thorn, a hindrance that blocked their way. In response, Jesus gave three separate parables stressing the value of a person. We focus our reflection on the first two parables.
The first parable talks about the shepherd of a hundred sheep entrusted to his care. Without any hint of hesitation, he immediately leaves the ninety—nine looking for the one who went astray. Upon finding the lost sheep, he puts it on his shoulder and comes back rejoicing, inviting all his friends to share his joy because he found the lost sheep. Similarly, this is how Jesus values each one of us. He does not look on our lapses, misfortunes and imperfections in life. Regardless of who and what we have become, we are all important in the eyes of God because each one of us is created in His image and likeness.
The second parable talks about a woman who possesses ten silver coins but lost one in the process. A typical house during the time of Jesus was made of piled stones without any windows. There was no electricity then and the floor was basically rough earthen texture. That is why finding the lost coin in this situation gave the woman great joy. But the point of the story is similar to the first parable which stresses the value of a person. That is why Jesus punctuates the story with a very striking ending that “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
We need to be reminded that these parables are stories in response to Jesus’ critics, the scribes and Pharisees. He presents himself as the embodiment of the shepherd and the woman, constantly searching for those who are lost. Although in the mind of his detractors, Jesus‘ action is spiritually and morally unacceptable. The scribes and Pharisees are only thinking of their spiritual purity but Jesus is concerned with bringing back the sinners to His fold. And that is precisely the reason why Jesus reached out to them. This is also a challenge to all of us who live exclusive lives, taking care of our own spiritual concerns. We are called to reach out to others and search for those who have gone astray. After all, this is our calling to become Christ—like even in our own little ways.