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'Have I not been with you all this time?'

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

By Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion | In the third of our series of Gospel meditations, Br Thomas reflects on the questions that Jesus poses to us in three parables from Luke's Gospel.


The questions of Jesus are incisive. In today’s Gospel we have two questions.

‘Which of you if having a hundred sheep and has lost one of them would not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness to search for the one?’ and ‘What woman with ten silver coins, if she loses one coin does not light a lamp and sweep the house carefully until she finds it?’

Jesus uses these questions to show us not only God’s relationship to sinners but he illumines how our attitudes do not always reflect his love.

In both parables what is lost is found, and there is great rejoicing, so we have hope for the lost – even when we are lost he will carry us back on his shoulders. There is also anxiety about what is lost. The woman lights a lamp and turns the house over in search of the coin. The Shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness. These are scenes of worry. The parables are not then merely about God going to find what is lost but that he is motivated by an anxious love. The Good Shepherd is distressed by his love. Disturbed by his love.

The shepherd and the woman are not the only characters in these scenes, but also their friends and relatives are invited to celebrate what is found. They are drawn into the drama so too are we drawn into the drama of God’s love. At different times in our lives we are the lost sheep or the lost coin, we are the 99 left behind, we are the friends and relatives who are invited to rejoice and at times we even participate in the work of the shepherd or the task of the woman who has lost her coin. Seeking and finding.

In the case of repentant sinners – that we all are – heaven, the angels, and the saints rejoice but what about the saints on earth? If we are to be saints we too must rejoice. Why? Because we have our inheritance.

These two parables are in fact part of a set of three. The third is the parable of the prodigal son. This is the climax of all three parables. In the parable of the prodigal son we find a relative who does not rejoice, the elder brother. The elder brother who has been labouring for his father all this time and denied the pleasures his younger brother receives is not only annoyed at the celebration; he is jealous. The younger brother has had all the pleasures and comforts of the world and the elder has been labouring, sweating in the fields, and now the younger brother has a celebration for doing what he should have done all along? ‘I require mercy not sacrifice’, says the Lord.

This is the point, repentant sinners are more precious than coin or sheep. Repentant sinners are beloved children of the Father. No matter what they have done, each individual, every single person, every sinner is loved by God as a father who longs for their return: whether they have lived as though they wish God was dead, whether they have abused the good things God has given in pursuit of pleasure, or honour, or power, or wealth.

But what do we value and prioritise as Christians? Do we rejoice more over the finding of lost things, working harder to find good YouTube videos of dogs doing funny things… rather than finding our lost brothers and sisters, lost beloved Children of our Father? Is this not why our mission is preaching the Gospel for the Salvation of Souls? When people are received into the Church what effort do I make to welcome them home? When someone seeks God’s forgiveness or even our own do we slay the fattened calf? Do we act like the shepherd or the woman frantically seeking the one? Do we rejoice like our Father?

Jesus came to call sinners; not the righteous, we return to him continually. Yet, there are times in our lives when we feel short changed for the sacrifices we are asked to make in our lives, short changed for following the Gospel. When we turn to our Father in our pain we can hear him say to our soul, ‘Have I not been with you all this time?’. What a devastating question. Both the younger son and the elder son were mistaken about what their inheritance consists of, where their treasure lies. The inheritance is not wealth, honour, power or pleasure – but the Father himself is our inheritance. The elder brother has his inheritance. We are with our Father, so then let us rejoice, we have our inheritance.  Let us anxiously labour in the field patiently, lovingly, gently, generously, courageously, thankfully, joyfully, with kindness so others may see we are doers of the word and may God grant us the grace to bring our brothers and sisters home on our shoulders.


Image: Domenico Fetti, The Parable of the Lost Drachma, c. 1618 (via Wikimedia Commons, image cropped)

Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion O.P.

Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion O.P.

Br Thomas Thérèse is a student brother in simple vows, born on the Wirral. He felt called to the priesthood at an early age. Before joining the Order, he was employed in the Archdiocese of Westminster as a Catechetical and Youth Coordinator. Whilst studying Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, he stumbled across the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist which lead him to discover the Friars of the English Province on YouTube. He entered the noviciate in 2016. He enjoys Ice Skating, History of the Papacy and the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. | thomas.mannion@english.op.org



MORE ON: GOSPEL REFLECTIONS

Comments

CHRISTINE commented on 05-Nov-2020 07:44 PM
thank you Bro for another uplifting reflection your writing is so easy to understand Stay safe

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