NOVEMBER 4. Ord Time B. Wk 31. Thu. Lk 15. 1-10
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So, he spoke this parable to them:
‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.
‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’
The listeners to Christ’s wisdom and teachings in this reading are made up of an interesting group. First, we have the tax collectors and sinners; - and then the Pharisees and scribes; - and then his faithful followers and disciples; - and Christ is happy to welcome them all!
The reading begins with a criticism of Jesus by the rulers of the day; - “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” implying this is not the sign of a good person; - but rather someone who does not know the type of people he is dealing with; - unlike the Pharisees, who were very attuned to who was “good” and who was a “sinner”!
A viewpoint rejected emphatically by Christ!
“What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me!”
Saying this, immediately after they had implied Jesus was unaware of who he was talking to, would have clearly insulted the Pharisees and scribes, to put it mildly; - but Jesus made it very clear; - he was looking for sinners, and inviting them to repent and follow his teachings.
And as if to emphasise the point, he then went on with two more parables that repeated the same lesson; - ending it with a reference, not to his rejoicing at finding lost sheep, but rather at the rejoicing that takes place in heaven; - “I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner!”
There is a profound lesson here for all Christians as many of us entertain views similar to those of the Pharisees; - we look down on people whose sins and failings have been made known publicly; - and yet these are the very people Christ came to teach and save!
Although it is not emphasised in this reading, what Christ is teaching us is the need for Mercy towards others; - a concept the Pharisees clearly did not understand; - but Christians must!!
Gospel Acclamation Mt11:28
Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
First reading Romans 14:7-12
Each of us must give an account of himself to God
The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life: it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. This is also why you should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God; as scripture says: By my life – it is the Lord who speaks – every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall praise God. It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself.