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 neighbors, 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 neighbors, 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Jesus is all about restoration this week: a sheep restored to its flock; a coin restored to a purse; a son restored to his father; a sinner restored to God.
The need for restoration is everywhere. None of us is the person God dreams of, yet. None of us lives in the world God dreams of, yet. We are fractured individuals in a shattered world. None of this intimidates God. The Creator is a brilliant artist who can imagine an infinite number of ways to bring individuals back to wholeness and the world back to its initial beauty.This week, Jesus offers three tools with which we can share in this work: knowledge, hope, and forgiveness.
The shepherd knew the ways of sheep, and that knowledge told him where he should seek the lost. The woman never lost hope; she searched until she found her coin. The father nursed no grudge against his son; his forgiveness was complete. Just so, God knows our ways, and will teach us to understand our brothers and sisters. God never stops hoping in us, and as we feel that hope, we learn to persevere in our love for others. And when God forgives us completely, it softens our hearts and inspires us to try the same.
In our baptismal call, we receive a mission to help God in this work of restoration. Knowledge, hope, and forgiveness are the tools that Christ himself used and now gives us to accomplish that work. It can take many years of failed attempts before we learn to follow the lost, to hope for what is hopeless, and to forgive those who may hurt us again, but Christ never gave in to despair, and neither can we.
The Creator has dreams for us and for the world, and we are apprentices, serving with awestruck faces as the Master Artisan shows us infinite ways to restore the world to the beauty of those dreams.
—Fr. Michael Simone, S.J. is just beginning his ministry as instructor in Old Testament Studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
It is not you who shapes God; it is God who shapes you. If then you are the handiwork of God, await the hand of the Artist who does all things in due season. Offer the pottery of your heart, soft and tractable, and keep well the form in which the Artist has fashioned you. Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Potter’s fingers.
—St. Irenaeus, 2nd century