24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Today’s Gospel
In chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel, Jesus tells three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing. The outcasts of society, the taxpayers, and the sinners approach Jesus eager to hear what he has to say. The Pharisees and scribes, still suspicious of Jesus, complain about him associating with sinners. So he tells them these three parables. In the first story, the parable of The Lost Sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the 99 sheep to search for the 1 lost sheep. When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices with friends and neighbours. In the same way, God rejoices more over 1 sinner who repents - like the outcasts who have come to hear Jesus - than over the 99 righteous like the Pharisees and scribes. The second story, about a poor woman who will not stop searching until she finds her lost coin, makes the same point. Why are the Pharisees complaining? They should rejoice when the lost are found.
Finally we come to what is probably the most memorable parable in the Gospels, the story we know as The Prodigal Son. Just as in The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin, this story is really about the seeker. The loving father is at the centre of this parable. Even though his son runs off with his father's inheritance and squanders the money, the father waits for him, hoping for his return. Upon his son's return, the father, “full of compassion,” runs out to embrace and forgive him before the son can utter one word of repentance. At this point the rejoicing begins.
The parable does not end there. Rather, it makes one more point about the elder son's reaction. This son who never left, just like the Pharisees and scribes who feel they are righteous, refuses to enter his father's house to join in the rejoicing. He has served his father. He has obeyed him. Perhaps it was not out of love. The father's response teaches us that God's care and compassion extend to the righteous and sinner alike. When we are lost, God doesn't wait for our return, he actively seeks us out. And when the lost are found, how could we not celebrate and rejoice?
Home Mission Sunday
Today is Home Mission Sunday. Each year the Church in England and Wales celebrates Home Mission Sunday as an opportunity to inspire us all to share the Good News we have received. Today we are encouraged to take to heart the invitation to ‘Rejoice with me’. This joyful invitation comes from two of the three people mentioned in the Gospel of the day. Through this short phrase, we are invited to experience the joy of finding something, or someone, that had been lost. How wonderful it would be if Catholic parishes responded to this invitation by celebrating with the people who have encountered Christ and come home to their parish community. There will be a retiring collection taken after all Masses today to support the Bishopsʼ work of evangelisation.