Gospel Reflections

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 15:1-32

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Marie Tighe

Published: September 15, 2019

St Luke was a doctor; a healer. Chapter 15 of his Gospel is a revelation of God’s healing love. Luke is also an artist who paints his pictures in words. Luke’s words today portray God’s unconditional love for all that God has created. The message today echoes Isaiah 43: 4; ‘You are precious in my eyes and I love you’.

The first picture is of the shepherd and his lost sheep. No Israeli shepherd in his right mind in Jesus’ day would leave his ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and set off in search of the one sheep that had strayed. The Pharisees and the Scribes who had great abilities to interpret every jot and tittle of the Scriptures did not have the ability to see beyond the story that Jesus painted in the parable. The tax collectors and sinners had different abilities. They were able to see in the story God’s unconditional love and rejoice in it. Last Spring I was able to spend a few days in a L’Arche Community with people who have ‘different abilities’. Jean Vanier said that Ivan who has been in the Community for eight years has the Gift of Hospitality. Ivan took me under his wing. He guided me to the farm where his two friends were caring for the newly born lambs. These two men were so patient and gentle with these wee creatures. Again words of Isaiah came to mind.  ‘He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast.’ (Isaiah 40: 11) They trusted me to hold a tiny lamb in my arms. As I held it in my arms and caressed its soft silky fleece I felt the life force pulsating through its tiny body. I was aware of its fragility; its vulnerability, but most of all of its sheer beauty. I have a mind-blowing thought: “Is this how God sees me?” I was also aware that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ who entrusts himself to us, yes, in the Eucharist, but also in every person we meet.

The next story is the lost coin. This coin was so precious to the woman possibly because it was one of the ten silver coins that were bound together as a dowry. It would have been the headdress she that wore on her forehead on her wedding day. Thereafter, she would wear this circlet daily and even at night while she slept. The coin meant more to her than the value of the precious silver. For her to lose it would have been like the way my mother would have felt if she had lost her wedding ring. My mother would have had the brush sweeping our kitchen and we would have been on our hands and knees enjoying the scramble as we searched the corners and the edges of the skirting boards for the ring. Jesus was not afraid to paint this picture of God as a woman, distressed by losing what is most precious to her. Again, I ask myself: ‘Does God really see me as part of the precious circlet she wears day and night?’ I am glad that she takes such trouble to search for me when I am lost and celebrates when I am found!

In the last story of this chapter we see again how people have different abilities. The Father has the ability to have faith in his wayward Son and allow him to go away and even go astray. He has hope that his son one day will return. We see the Father watching out for his Son until from a distance he sees him coming. He does not lose hope in his son. Most of all we perceive the Father’s unconditional forgiving love. This helps us to appreciate God’s Faith, Hope and Love for each one of us. The younger son has the ability to play and enjoy life. The older son does not seem to have this gift. He has the ability to work hard. He says to his Father, ’I have slaved for you.’ Perhaps this loving Father would have far preferred this older son to take time off and enjoy celebrating life with him. Yes. We see many different abilities at work in this story. As I look at the Father, I can only ask the Holy Spirit to help me to allow my Faith Hope and Love to grow. Observing the two brothers I appreciate the importance of balancing play and work. However, most of all, like the younger son, I need continually to come to the Father’s heart and listen to God saying to me, ‘You are precious in my eyes and I love you.’

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