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Rejoice with Me!
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me what is important to you and grant me the grace to act on what I learn from you. Your ways are often not my ways, but I want to follow you. Help me, Jesus.
- They Complained: The Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus was attracting tax collectors and sinners. They shunned these people, considering themselves higher in social status. These Pharisees and scribes were privileged to spend their lives studying Scripture in order to lead people to God. They did not have to toil and sweat in manual labor for a living because they were supported by the tithes of those who did. They should have been tending to all of God’s people but instead openly rejected some of those they were called to serve. Jesus must have been very offended by their attitude because he told three parables clearly challenging their way of being. To Our Lord, faith is not a numbers game. Jesus said, “…there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” What do Jesus’ words say about how we value other human beings? Do we acknowledge the dignity of the unborn? The homeless? The mentally ill? Those whom we find irritating? Those who don’t agree with us?
- The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin: In these parables, the shepherd had many sheep and the woman had lots of coins. How illogical it would have been, then, for them to drop everything and look for something of so little temporal value. Yet the single sheep and the one coin mattered very much to them. By these parables, Jesus is sharing with us the truth about his Father’s heart. To the Creator and Lord of all that is, was, and is to come, every one of us matters infinitely. We matter so much that when we turn in repentance, all of Heaven rejoices.
- The Wayward Child: In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus emphasized for the third time that no matter how stubborn, arrogant, immoral, unlovable, and selfish one is, God welcomes us with open arms when we turn back to him. “Prodigal” means recklessly extravagant, giving profusely, lavishly abundant. It is the Father who is the prodigal one. It is God who seeks the wanderer, searches for the lost, and welcomes home the wayward, and Jesus is telling us to do the same. The sacrament of Reconciliation is the place of Heaven’s rejoicing. It is in this healing sacrament the dead come to life and the lost are found.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am often quick to judge others, seeing only their faults. Your merciful heart is very different! To you, each of us is your precious child, worth all the seeking and searching required to bring us to our heavenly home. May I always remember that I am infinitely loved by you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a plan to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and bring someone with me, if possible.
For Further Reflection: Watch this short video on the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by Bishop Robert Barron.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic Evangelization Ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.
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