This Week's Reflection from Fr. Bob Warren: Rejoice with Me Because I Have Found My Lost Sheep
Rejoice with Me Because I Have Found My Lost Sheep
lived in a society where caste lines were sharply drawn. It was clearly
understood that people stayed with their own kind. Good people did not
mix and mingle with bad people. The rich never went near the poor,
except to drop a coin in their cups. Jesus refused to play by that
rule. His righteousness was a matter of inclusion. To Him, people were
simply people, and He had room and time for all of them. This attitude
kept Him constantly out of step with the most influential people of the
community. He was an inclusive man living in an exclusive society. That
created conflict. It rocked the boat. It disturbed the status quo.
People kept trying to get Him to sit down, to shut up and to act like a
holy man ought to act, in their eyes. But He would not comply, and that
gospel reading is an example of this ongoing conflict. The scribes and
Pharisees observed with scornful eyes the crowd that was gathered
around Jesus. Most of them were people of doubtful reputation, but in
the presence of Jesus, they found acceptance and respect. How could a
man like this call Himself a prophet? He cannot even tell the
difference between good people and bad. They murmured against Him,
saying this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.
did not deny it, but He did explain it by the telling of three stories.
These stories tell us about the inclusiveness of Jesus. First, it was
based on His understanding of people. He saw them as lost and needing to
be found. They were like coins that had fallen to the floor and rolled
under the furniture. They were like sheep that had wandered away from
the flock. They were like reckless youth who had rebelled and run away
from home. People were lost in different ways and different places. The
desire of Jesus was to help them find their way. That was why He moved
with such ease across all the dividing lines. To Him, those lines were
not real. They were just figments of the human imagination. He crossed
over them as easily as you and I step over lines in a sidewalk.
day, He would have dinner in the house of a respected Pharisee named
Simon. Another day, He would reside in the home of a despised tax
collector named Zacchaeus. Both were the same to Him. They were just
two of God's children. The only difference was that one of them knew
it, and the other did not. The people with whom Jesus lived had built
all kinds of barriers. They were designed to shut themselves in and to
shut others out. Some of them were based on gender. Men were seen as
superior to women. Yet, Jesus would not condemn the woman caught in
adultery. He reached out to the woman at the well who had five husbands.
Some of the barriers were based on race, especially if they were
Samaritans. Yet, Jesus went to Samaritan towns and even spoke about the
Good Samaritan. Some barriers were based on religion. Those who
carefully kept the law believed they were superior to those who did not.
Jesus broke the most sacred of Jewish laws—the law of the Sabbath. He
said, "Were we made for the Sabbath, or was the Sabbath made for us?"
Some of them were based on physical condition—Jesus healed the lepers.
He spoke to them. But worst of all, He stretched out His hand and
touched one, and cured Him both in mind and body. Jesus despised all of
these barriers and would not acknowledge a single one of them. To Him
all people were the same.
also changed our idea of God. Some thought of Him as a frowning judge,
handing out punishments, but not Jesus. In His mind, God was like that
woman with a broom in hand searching for a lost coin. He was a shepherd
with a sheep on his shoulders carrying it back to the fold. He was a
father welcoming a wayward son and pleading with another to come to the
party. This is what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees. He was inviting
them to the party of Divine Grace and forgiveness.
this final parable is treated as an "either/or" story. We make the
younger son the good guy and the older son the bad guy. But I do not
think Jesus saw it that way. He shows the father reaching out to both
sons. He cared for the one who came home smelling of cheap booze, and
he cared for the one who came from the field with honest sweat on his
brow. By these stories, Jesus shows us that His grace embraces Jew and
Gentile, male and female, saint and sinner.
every Mass we gather in the name of the inclusive Christ. Let us try
to become a church for the outcast, not a church that casts out.