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Exploring the Word (Archive)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 

11 September 2022
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Gospel

Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property—he and his women—you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

(Luke 15:1–32) 

Did you know? 

Points of interest and Catholic lore 
  • Tax-collectors were regarded as outcasts because they were employed by the Romans to collect taxes from the people. They also had a reputation for skimming a profit for themselves off the top.
  • Pharisees were very concerned with ritual purity. Eating with sinners could lead one to becoming ‘unclean’ and thus defiled and unable to observe the Law and participate in the ritual life of Israel.
  • A drachma was a Greek coin. Its name derives from the word for ‘to grasp’. It was worth about the same as a Roman denarius.
  • These parables are about God’s search for us, rather than our search for God.

Exploring the Word 

Today’s gospel consists of three parables about that which was lost being found. The final one is the well-known story of the ‘prodigal son’ or, more correctly, ‘the loving father’. The image of God presented in these parables challenges some popular notions of God being omnipotent and removed from his creation. Instead, Jesus tries to portray something of his own intimate relationship with a God whom he knows as Father. The images of a shepherd who is prepared to risk the safety of the flock in order to go to search out just one sheep, of a woman who puts a great deal of time and energy into the recovery of one small coin and the father who extravagantly welcomes back a son who has treated him very badly tell of the extravagance of God’s love for all, especially those who are the lost ones of society. The great rejoicing at the culmination of each parable speaks to us of the unconditional love of God and his pleasure at our positive response to his invitation to the feast.

  • In what ways do these three parables offer either comfort or challenge to you?
  • What have been your own experiences of overwhelming joy?

Making connections 

Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer 
  • Have you ever had the experience of being ‘lost’? If so, how were you found?
  • Would you leave the ninety-nine to go in search of just one? What lengths are you prepared to go to in order to find what you search for?
  • Share experiences of a time when something has happened in your life that was cause for great rejoicing or celebration. How did you mark the event or incident?
  • Make an effort this week to seek out someone who may be feeling a little lost or alone. Help them to experience the love of God in the kindness you offer.
  • Today’s collect is suitable for your prayer this week:
    Creator and ruler of all things …
    grant that I may serve you with all my heart. 

Sharing the tradition 

A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ 

The gospels abound with instances of Jesus spending time with and showing special concern for those who were regarded as outcasts in the society of his time. This special concern for the poor and the disadvantaged has become a cornerstone of Catholic Social Teaching. The dignity of the human person is founded in the creation of humans in the image of God. Human dignity is not diminished by age, gender, economic circumstance, ethnicity or occupation. We are called to work for those in need ‘in ways that neither humiliate them nor reduce them to mere objects of assistance but which help them escape their precarious situation by promoting their dignity as persons’ (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, §49). Similarly, in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', Pope Francis appeals ‘to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.’ (See also CCC, §§1878–1896.)

  • Who are the most distressed and excluded groups in Australian society?
  • In what ways is the Church responding to the needs of such groups?
  • Speak about particular ministries that seek out the lost and work to enhance their human dignity—for example, Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda, St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy, Ozanam House or the Vinnies Youth food vans.

Symbols and images 

The image of God as Father is often used in Scripture. It conveys both authority and deep love. Jesus uses the intimate term Abba(meaning ‘Papa’ or ‘Daddy’) when praying. These parables tell us something of the intimate love of the Father for all his children, especially the lost ones.

Living the Word 

Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment 
  • In what ways does your community provide for those in need in the local area? Are there ways that catechumens can become involved in these ministries?
  • As a focus for prayer, you could use images from newspapers or other publications that depict ‘the lost’ of our world. Pray for all those who are excluded or disadvantaged. Pray for each other as you journey towards Christian commitment. A suitable song could be ‘God has chosen me’ (GA 497). Conclude with the blessing in the RCIA at §97I.
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