Scripture Reflection – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel reading, Luke refers several times to things lost and found; the coin, the sheep, the prodigal son. As I read and reflected on this piece of scripture, I considered how it feels to first lose and then find something. As someone who is prone to absentmindedness, I know the irritation of misplacing my car keys moments before I am set to drive off, and then the relief when I find them. Have you ever had a sheet of paper in front of you one minute and then twenty seconds later it has inexplicably disappeared? I have. Sometimes I never do find it. I lost my iPod and that inconveniences me, still haven’t found that either. I will be happy when I find it, though. Admittedly, I have invoked the favour of St. Anthony of Padua on more than one occasion.
At the time, the loss of these material items seems important, but I do not think that was the point of the three parables told in today’s gospel. These losses are not felt as deeply as spiritual loss, disconnection from God, or reconciliation. The times when I feel a deep sense of spiritual loss are with the breakdown of a friendship, intimate relationship, the loss of trust in someone, or loss of faith. There is also the sense of loss connected to the things I do that alienate me from God. In my experience, one of the greatest challenges at a time like this is that I do not always realize that I have drifted. Denial, maybe. And the funny thing is, like my car keys, God’s presence never left me, but I was too busy looking the other way to notice.
Maybe you have experienced the same thing, but those times in my life when I have experienced a loss of faith or a spiritual crisis, it has not been pretty, and for me, these losses carry the sharpest sting. However, I also think they offer the greatest opportunity for healing, reconciliation and conversion. I have found the good news here to be that recovering from a loss of faith? It carries big benefits; a transformed faith with a stronger foundation. I am not saying it is easy, just possible. Why then such rejoicing over one sinner who repents, one found sheep, or recovered coin? Does God love sinners more than the righteous? Is Jesus suggesting that there are no righteous, but that we are all either sinners or self-righteous and delusional? That sounds reasonable to me. Like with the woman with the coins, the shepherd with the lost sheep, and the father of the wayward son, it is comforting to know that God places as much value on each of us as he does on all of us together.