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Losing, Searching, Finding, and Feasting ...

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend’s Gospel unravels for us the movement of repentance, from overture through to the coda. Repentance begins with being lost, moves through a sonata of straying and wandering and dissolution, and ends (hopefully) with being found and feasting. Jesus uses not one but three parables to sound for us the mighty music of how much God seeks us when we are lost and how much God (and all of heaven) rejoices when we are found. The shepherd man, the housekeeper woman, and the prodigal father have in common losing, searching and finding, and feasting. This is a glorious feast – the only one that brings us from death to life. This is the feast of repentance ... the only source of everlasting joy. This feast only happens through encounter with Jesus Christ who knows when we are lost, ever seeks us and desires that we be found, and offers the lavish feast of Himself for our celebrating and rejoicing.

Jesus uses three situations (a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son) to dramatize that whenever we stray from God’s steadfast compassion and love (become lost), God always seeks to find us and to show us divine mercy. For our part, we must realize that we are lost, we must recognize our need for God, and we must begin the journey home to be embraced by divine mercy. When God’s offer of mercy is met with repentance, all in heaven rejoice. God’s feast is about rejoicing over us humans who stray from God but repent and are welcomed back.

Tax collectors and sinners are “drawing near to listen to Jesus.” Pharisees and scribes, on the other hand, observe what is happening and complain to Jesus. He answers their complaint with the three parables that turn the table on their belief about who is really saved. Not the Pharisees and scribes who are self-righteous and unrelenting, but the sinners who are self-aware and repent. Jesus invites everyone to His table – His feast of mercy. But not everyone chooses to come. Only those who recognize their need to be found come. God always knows when we are lost and gives us every means to be found. God desires that no one be lost, but that we repent and return to the Source of our Life. For this we rejoice and feast.

God’s response to our being lost (choosing sinfulness) is always one of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. God always seeks the lost (even when it includes an intentional turning away from God). God is always faithful in giving us all we need to choose life over death.

If God is so compassionate and loving with us, then as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we must risk being compassionate and loving with others. First of all, this means we don’t judge whether the other is worth our mercy and love. God shows us that all of us are worthy – even outcasts and sinners. Second, we ourselves don’t do anything to earn mercy and love. Since they are free gifts of God to us, they are gifts we should freely give to others. We don’t have to wait until someone wrongs us to show mercy and love – we need to offer these gifts simply because the other is also a beloved child of God.

It is much easier for us to be merciful and loving when the end situation ... the result ... is better for us. For example, we might forgive a family member some wrong-doing because we want peace in the family. It is far riskier to be merciful when there is no immediate gain for us personally in sight. As those who follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be merciful simply because this is the way that He was. Living the Paschal Mystery means that we feast well and often because we realize that God unfailingly extends His mercy and love without calculating whether we deserve it or not. All we need to do is repent. All we need to do is be willing to be found.

May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!

Fr. Larry

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