08Nov 08 November . Thursday of Week Thirty One

Ph 3:3ff. Paul has discovered joy, in Jesus Christ.

Lk 15:1ff. Joy at finding the lost sheep & the lost coin.

Finding Lost Sheep

In Luke’s account, Jesus never misses an opportunity to join in a dinner-party. Many of the great discourses in this gospel were delivered at the dining table of his wealthy hosts. Both parables conclude with a happy retriever of lost goods [a lost sheep or lost silver pieces] inviting friends and neighbours in and bidding them, ‘Rejoice with me!’ and such happy occasion are compared with God’s own joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, which is greater than over the ninety-nine righteous who have no need to repent.

Each of us is reflected both in the ninety-nine sheep that are always accountable, and in the one lost sheep that wanders off and is reluctant to live under control. We have ideas and talents that we understand and try to carefully direct. They are always with us and we are quietly proud of them. These constitute the 99% righteous part of ourselves that has “no need to repent.” But perhaps God has also poured an unruly talent or quality into us. Stretching the parable a bit, we might say that this easily lost part of ourselves can be a unique opportunity crossing our path.

The parable assures us that the lost sheep and lost coin in each of us can be found. We must leave aside the ninety-nine other aspects of ourselves and seek this one, fleeting aspect. But are we ready and willing to light a lamp and sweep the house of our existence diligently, till we discover the lost coin?

In this light we can understand Paul’s words about harshly judging our neighbour. What value may be just the ninety-nine safe sheep, the other being lost to view. Our bourgeois judgment seldom considers the value of the lost sheep or coin, which cannot easily be seen. But when the lost one is found, the flock of a hundred is complete, for Jesus wants all of his people to share in his life.

First Reading: Philippians 3:3-8

For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh – even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”