O Happy Fault

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Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time


Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and sinners, however, were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the ninety-nine in the desert 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, 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.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Grant that I may come to your table with open ears to listen to how you speak to my heart. Grant that I may also rejoice with you for those who turn from sin in order to follow you.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Dispositions: How impressive that those seeking to win the seat closest to Jesus were the sinners and the tax collectors, those rejected by the religious culture at the time. And instead of listening to Jesus, it seemed that the religious leaders were simply complaining about his welcoming the sinners to his table, a place of intimacy. The eagerness of those sinners to draw near to the Lord tells us something about him. Jesus can find the slightest openness in the human heart in order to enter in. He sets aside the external appearance and social reputations, as well as the repercussions of judgments, in order to make space for further conversion. “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things! He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more (John 8:11)’” (Pope Francis, Homily on March 17, 2013).
  2. Exam of Conscience: Jesus knew the judgments that were being thrown at him. And yet he neither backed away for fear of being rejected, nor pointed a finger. Instead, he was focused on the ones he loved and desired to turn to God. He invited the Pharisees and scribes to also turn their hearts from jealousy and lack of understanding to participation in his joy. His tactic was not to tell them to change their hearts, but rather to tell a story. The story could be applied as each one saw fit. If they were sincere, they would examine their consciences and recognize the invitation that Jesus was offering them to join him at his table as well.
  3. Sinner or Upright: The passage seems to suggest that it would be better to be a repentant sinner. We would offer greater cause for a celestial party! What a cause for joy, since each of us can discover the sinner within. Even the upright of heart may discover deeper motives in need of purifying and converting: vain desires to be seen as a morally upright person, tendencies to be judgmental, etc. Like St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, let us not fear to discover the deeper rooted egotism that sometimes reigns and taints the purity of our love. And let us rejoice with their same message, “Oh happy fault that won for us so great a Redeemer!”


Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. You know the depth of my heart more than I know myself. Reveal to me where I most need conversion, which is a turning of my heart from self-seeking to self-giving.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what aspects of my heart need conversion.


For Further Reflection: Fr. Roger Landry’s homily (audio and written text).


Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”

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