Year C: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 15: 1-32
The “Lost and Found” stories that make up the longer version of today’s Gospel are very well-known and, again, we can be tempted to switch off - especially when it looks as if it is going to be a long read! However, there is always something new to be found in Scripture stories - so let’s look afresh at the stories before us.
In the first parable, Jesus uses the image of God as a shepherd. God is the shepherd who first of all notices that a sheep has gone missing. Out of a hundred sheep before Him - God sees that one isn’t there. Rather than deciding that the sheep has got itself lost and must suffer the consequences, God sets off to find it and bring it home - rejoicing as He does.
Then, we have the image of a woman searching for a coin.
We have all experienced that sinking feeling when we have lost money - or something we value. We also know what it is like to turn the house upside down until we find it - going back over “when did I last see it?” And then, hopefully, the moment when we find it - the relief and pleasure we feel. And, says Jesus, this is how God feels when He finds us - we get ourselves lost and God pulls out all the stops to find us - and feels the same kind of relief and joy that we feel when we have found something we treasure.
The stories end with the “Prodigal Son” - though some people have suggested that it should be the “Prodigal Father”. Prodigal means giving - and spending without giving a thought to the cost.
The young man, obviously, doesn’t give much thought to the cost of his spending spree - and ends up in the depths of despair.
But the Father doesn’t count the cost of his loving. For Him the important thing is the restoration of his son - not as a servant - but as a beloved member of the family returning to his rightful place.
In these stories, Jesus is showing us the height and depth and length and breadth of God’s love for us. God will search us out - like the lost sheep and the lost coin.
And when God has found us in the depths of our despair and spoken to our hearts “come back to Me” - He gives us the strength to turn round and come back - and is there ready and waiting to greet us and bring us home.
What does it mean for me?
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