Homily for the twenty-fourth Sunday of the Year - Year C - Lk. 15:1-10


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, «This man receives sinners and eats with them.» "


" So he told them this parable: «What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which 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 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.» "




Homily:


" Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, «This man receives sinners and eats with them.» "


"When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman..." (Gal. 4:4) With these few words, Saint Paul summarizes God's Work for the men and women he created in his Love: God sent his Son... This sending, this mission had been prepared a long time beforehand, ever since Adam and Eve, unfortunately, sinned against the Lord. During the time of preparation, God already sent his grace, a grace that was not yet that of Jesus the Savior, but a grace that made it possible for men to faithfully await the promised Messiah. Finally there came the fullness of time, the hour when the preparation was complete and when the Messiah was finally to be sent to save all the men and women of the earth.


Of course, not everyone responded to the call of grace. But when Jesus went from village to village to teach and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit who rested upon the Messiah poured out new graces to prepare the hearts that listened to the Word of God. The people who were the most disposed to listen to the Word were sinners, for it is the sick, and those who recognize themselves as such, who feel the need to receive medicine. Thus, Saint Luke specifies that it was sinners who went to Jesus to listen to his word: "The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus." For, when Jesus spoke, "words of grace" (Lk. 4:22) came forth from his mouth.


As they listened to Jesus speak, these men and women, who were sinners, began to understand who it was who spoke to them in this way: He is the Savior of men, He is Love in person who comes to save them from shipwreck and from eternal loss, He is Goodness itself! So, sinners though they were, they had already become friends of God: the grace of the Word of God transformed them into new creatures! It is as if they were but a single Body with Christ. Jesus became their Head, and they became the members of his Body, hoping to already share a single eternal Life in God! So, the meal that these men and women ate with Jesus is already, for them, a foretaste of the eternal Feast...


" So he told them this parable: «What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which 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.» "


This meal that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans did not please the scribes and Pharisees: "The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, «This man receives sinners and eats with them.» " But Jesus responds to them, for he knows that what he does is good and that he is right to act in this manner. He does not respond in order to crush his adversaries but rather to try to convince them, in order that they, too, might finally listen to his Word...


Jesus replies with two very simple and well-known parables: that of the lost sheep, and that of the lost coin. With these two parables, Jesus wants to show us how great is God's solicitude towards sinners, especially in contrast to the flagrant contempt of the scribes and Pharisees towards them. "Mercy, have mercy on sinners," Jesus cries out to them. It is as if he were saying to them: "Have you never needed the mercy of God at any time in your past? Even if you are now righteous, which remains to be proven, you were once sinners among sinners: do not forget this!"


It is true that Saint Paul said: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." (Ep. 5:8) But he also reminded us of the fundamental truth that, in Adam, "all have sinned" (Rm. 5:12). Jesus himself, when the Pharisees and scribes brought to him the woman caught in adultery, exclaimed: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (Jn. 8:7)


" «Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.» "


God is truly good, He is infinitely merciful! The Lord unceasingly waits for the sinner with compassion, lavishing upon him his all-powerful grace in order to help him on the way to conversion. He even sends him an angel to watch over him: his guardian angel! The mission of this angel, of this spiritual being, is to safeguard and to facilitate the transmission of the grace of God to the man or woman the angel has in his care. It is thus completely natural that the angels would express joy when a sinner converts himself by accepting the grace of God and rejecting all attachment to sin: "There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."


The word "angels" here refers not only to the spiritual beings who are ceaselessly at the service of God, but also, in a certain way, to all those around us who seek to facilitate our conversion: these angels are our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends, our close relatives, everyone we meet, here and there, throughout our life... All of them rejoice in seeing us turn our heart towards God rather than towards creatures, including ourselves...


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of all the Angels, the most loving of all the creatures who watch over us, intercede for the conversion of all sinners! "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!"



To order the weekly homily immediately, click here