One of the frailties of human behaviour is our incapacity to see ourselves in the full light of day. So many tests – both simple exercises and the more deeply searching psychological tests – are designed precisely to help us see those parts of our own life that are hidden from us.
Jesus may not have had ‘tests’ through which to help people see themselves and their behaviour more clearly, but he certainly had a great gift for storytelling. In his stories and shorter parables, he not only revealed God’s love and mercy to us but helped his first audiences (and us today) to see themselves and our future safety in God’s loving embrace more clearly.
Today we see this dynamic once again. People were gathering to hear the Word that Jesus was revealing (notwithstanding of course, that apart from anything he said, Jesus was the Word of God).
The people divide neatly into two groups – those who would have seen themselves as outsiders on the one hand (the tax collectors and those labelled ‘sinners’) and on the other hand those who would have seen themselves as insiders (the Pharisees and Scribes).
Jesus gives two simple illustrations that do not favour the majority as one might have imagined but highlight the value of those who his society would have considered ‘lost’.
For our deeper consolation, and to strengthen our own trust and faith in God, we might notice two dynamics that Jesus highlights in the characters of the shepherd and woman.
The first is the great effort, energy, and commitment that they both bring to their search. The second is the joy the two protagonists exhibit upon finding the sheep or the coin. Jesus highlights God’s commitment to us and God’s delight that accompanies the return of the ‘lost’.
In faith, let us rest in the thought that every moment of conversion in our lives, every act of humility and reconciliation we enact is echoed in heaven by God’s delightful cry of ‘Rejoice with me for I have found that faithful part of my daughter/son’s life that had been lost for a time’
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.