“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?”
What would you do if money you were saving for your own wedding went astray?
While we cannot know for certain that the coin the woman had lost was one destined to be part of her wedding dowry, and in fact we do not know what the coins were to be used for, but that they were part of a wedding dowry is one suggestion. Whatever the reason, in the context of life in Palestine in the day of Jesus, ten such coins did represent something of great value (each probably worth a day’s labour), so to lose one was a real loss. Further, houses of the day while small were usually windowless and consequently dark, thus a sweeping search, even in daytime, necessitated using candles and small oil lamps which of course only generated limited light. To search diligently and for a long period would have been certainly stressful and difficult.
All of this enables us to understand a little more deeply the significance of the central image of the parable – that of searching. It is this symbol which most illustrates the deeper dynamic Jesus wants to illustrate. The truth to be conveyed is that the Father is the one who likewise searches diligently and constantly for us (especially when we are ‘lost’).
The ‘searching’ dynamic is further illustrated by the other parable – that of the shepherd who leaves all behind whilst he goes to search for the one sheep who is lost.
And let us not overlook the other wonderful image revealed within both parables – the rejoicing and celebration that accompanies the finding of the one that was lost. In the words of Jesus there is great ‘rejoicing in heaven’ when any one of us is repentant and is lead home or returns home, to God.
God will never abandon us and God will be always be prompting us to return to the way of life and love. God’s active searching for us will never cease. It may take the form of the voice of a friend or indeed stranger, encouraging us to try again or to turn back from a destructive path. God’s searching for us may take the form of a loved one offering us his or her hand to support or guide us. God’s searching for us may take the form of an inner voice – that of the Spirit within – prompting us to choose life over whatever holds us down or prevents us from loving at any particular moment.
This is our inheritance, our rich treasure – nothing can surpass this gift.
With Paul we too can cry “More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.