24 Sunday of the Year C
Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Often times we take things for granted and do not appreciate what we have until we have lost them. We might have experienced a feeling of joy when we have found something that we lost, especially those things that were precious to us or necessary for our use. Who is not happy when he has found a pair of glasses that was lost. Who is not pleased when she has found her keys that were lost? Who is not happy when he has found a wallet with his ID papers and credit cards that were lost? Who is not pleased when she has found her wedding band that was lost? To find a conjugal love that was lost and now reconciled has made some married couples weep with tears of joy.
The joy of finding someone or something lost must resemble the joy of the shepherd in today’s gospel who has found his lost sheep, or the woman who has found her lost coin, or the father who has found his lost son. Therefore, to find the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son one way or another is the common theme of the scripture readings today.
Why did the woman have to invite her neighbors to celebrate when she has found her lost coin (Lk 15:9)? According to scripture exegetes, the lost coin was a drachma, worth of one day’s wage for a laborer in the field. Following another source, perhaps it was part of her dowry implied more sentimental value .
The three parables of today’s gospel expressed God’s mercy, kindness and forgiveness. The book of Exodus tells us a story of a golden calf. When the Israelites in the desert were no longer patient with the prolonged absence of Moses on Mount Sinai, they complained to God and blamed him who brought them to the desert and then abandoned them. Therefore, they asked Aaron to make them a molten calf so that they could worship a lifeless and emotionless idol, instead of worshiping the one true God. Because of their sin of unfaithfulness, God was angry, intended to punish them. However, Moses implored God to forgive them and God forgot his anger and forgave their sins (Ex 32:14).
The audience who first heard the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son were the Pharisees and lawyers. They complained to Jesus and grumbled at him for frequenting the houses of sinners and tax collectors, eating and drinking with them. They did not want him to hang around with those outcasts. Therefore, when they saw him associate with the dregs of society, they were scandalized. Jesus responded to them: The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost (Lk 19:10). Through the parables of one lost sheep, one lost coin and one lost son, Jesus wants to show us the importance of each individual person.
Each person is valuable. Each person needs to be saved. Jesus wants us to go after each individual who was lost. The lost sheep might be a family member of ours, or a relative or friend of ours. Jesus wants us to search for that lost individual or at least to pray for him/her. That was what Saint Monica did. Saint Monica prayed with tears for the conversion of her son Augustine. With her patient prayers, Augustine did convert himself. He became a great saint and great theologian. If we ourselves are lost, wandering away from the way of justice and holiness, Jesus wants us to remember God’s mercy and forgiveness and love. He is waiting for us to come back to him. God’s mercy was shown through the conversion of Saint Paul. In his letter to Timothy, Paul confided: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost (1Tm 1:15).
Today each one of us needs to ask ourselves if we have wandered away from the flock of Christ. We wander away from Jesus’ flock when we sin, unfaithful to our baptismal promises. We become lost sheep when we do not live up to the way of the gospel or do not obey his commandments. No matter how very sinful we are, if we are truly sorry and repent our sins, God is ready to forgive and welcome us back with his open arms. If the sheep and the coin, all lost and found and the prodigal son returned made people happy, then the angels of God in heaven also rejoiced when a sinner has repented (Lk 15:7, 10). That must be our joy when one sinner has returned to the practice of faith.
Prayer for conversion of heart:
Oh Lord God, you are God of power and goodness.
Due to the original sin, all descendants had to wander away.
We thank you for you sent your only Son to save us.
When we wander away, show us the way to come back to you.
Help us to seek out your lost sheep back to you. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
. Jerome Kodell. ‘Luke’ in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, New Testament. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press: 1992, p. 964