Weekly Gospel Reflection -- 15 September 2013

All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.

“Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

In today’s story about stories, once more we see that Jesus tells stories based on what he did or is doing. In this case, the stories about a lost sheep and a lost coin explain why he hangs out and befriends “tax collectors and other notorious sinners” (verse 1; NLT). But there’s more going on here than just hanging out. In that culture, to eat with someone was to count them as family, as an equal. This was something that the Religious Elite wouldn’t do. Jesus is having a party with all the wrong people! And he always seemed to do that. In fact, in the previous chapter, he said not to invite all the normal people but to invite the “poor, crippled, lame, and blind” instead (Luke 14.12-14).

But why? Why did those type of people seem to flock around Jesus? Why does he seem so comfortable with them? Because, Jesus says, that’s what’s happening in G-d’s Realm! G-d’s Realm is rejoicing because the long awaited return of Israel’s King has finally come at last (see Mark 1.15)! And when that happens, people, quite naturally it seems, come crowding in. Their deepest yearnings are being realized. The disconnect of “earth” and “heaven” are finally coming together the way that was always promised -- “on earth as in heaven.” True repentance is not about following the rules and regulations of the Religious Elite, but coming to Jesus and living The Way he exemplified. That’s what those people were doing. They saw in Jesus the way humanity was truly supposed to be. And they wanted to be a part of that. Who wouldn’t throw a party for that?!

But then the questions we need to ask ourselves is what are we doing to mimic this? That is, what are we doing to make those around us ask the questions, “Why are you hanging out and befriending those people? I thought you were a follower of Jesus? Don’t you know what kind of people they are? Why are you doing that” What might we do to be asked those questions and what stories would we tell about finding something that was lost to answer them?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


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