Today’s Gospel is a treasure trove. We don’t just get one parable told by Jesus, but three. All three parables are about something lost; a sheep, a coin, a son. Luke recalls these parables for his community to highlight the longing of the “finder” who goes out of his way to search for what is lost.
In the gospel, Jesus tells these three parables because the “Pharisees and teachers of the law” were upset with Him for welcoming and eating with sinners. And not just everyday sinners like you and me but rather, publicly acclaimed sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. In the parables, the lost item does not lose its dignity just because it is ‘lost’. The one coin is just as important as the other 9, one sheep just as important as the other 99 and one son just as important as the other. Jesus’ message to the Pharisees is that like the lost items, the sinners who seek his company may have lost their way, but they retain their dignity in the eyes of God. God will search for them, scan the horizon each day looking for them and rejoice when they are found. Shouldn’t the Pharisees do the same?
And what of us? Today, there are many people who feel forgotten, alone and forsaken in our world. Social media interactions, the increase in homelessness and financial strain can make many feel lost. We live in a world where each of us can be diminished to a number or a statistic. Our tax file number identifies us. Our PIN numbers give us access. We can be reduced to a counted entity in various statistics – number of Catholics in Australia, number of people who have contracted Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, number of people who shop at Supermarket X or tune in to The Block on Sunday night. We also live in a society where the majority rules. Decisions can be made, not based on what is right or just but based on what the majority wants.
It is precisely in a world like this that Jesus’ message in today’s gospel has its greatest impact. Every person is important and is precious in God’s eyes. God does not diminish us to a mere number or one of the collective. His love is for all, especially the outcast, needy and broken of the world and when they are ‘lost’, He goes in search of His people and welcomes them with open arms and celebration. Despite our weaknesses, failings and even sometimes, our rejection, God keeps searching for us, awaits our return and welcomes us with open arms. We too are called to follow the example of the gospel and extend care, support, mercy and compassion to all so that no one is left behind, excluded or lost. We are called to welcome all to the table, just as Jesus did, and rejoice when they join us.