The Power of Forgiveness

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 
So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ 
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:1-10)   

Scripture Study

15:1–2. This is not the first time that publicans and sinners approach Jesus (cf. Mt 9:10). They are attracted by the directness of our Lord’s preaching and by his call to self-giving and love. The Pharisees in general were jealous of his influence over the people (cf. Mt 26:2–5; Jn 11:47), a jealousy which can also beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no matter how great his sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint; a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good done by others. Our Lord criticized this attitude when he replied to his disciples’ complaints about others casting out devils in his name: “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me” (Mk 9:39). And St Paul rejoiced that others proclaimed Christ and even overlooked the fact they did so out of self-interest, provided Christ was preached (cf. Phil 1:17–18).

15:5–6. Christian tradition, on the basis of this and other Gospel passages (cf. Jn 10:11), applies this parable to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who misses and then seeks out the lost sheep: the Word, by becoming man, seeks out mankind, which has strayed through sinning. Here is St Gregory the Great’s commentary: “He put the sheep on his shoulders because, on taking on human nature, he burdened himself with our sins” (In Evangelia homiliae, 2, 14).

15:7. This does not mean that our Lord does not value the perseverance of the just: he is simply emphasizing the joy of God and the saints over the conversion of a sinner. This is clearly a call to repentance, to never doubt God’s readiness to forgive.[1]

 

Reflection

“there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

We had received our transfer orders and knew from the housing waiting list at our new duty station that it would be at least six months before something would open up. When we showed up to move into our temporary quarters, we discovered that the prior tenants had kept dogs in the downstairs bathroom which left a permanent smell and stain on floors, all the way through to the concrete. Amazingly, after a good dose of bleach, the smell and stain were gone.

We often see our sins like that smelly stain – believing that nothing could never make us clean. But when we humbly acknowledge our brokenness and turn to God, that’s when his power of forgiveness goes to work, making us as clean as the day we were baptized. This is the true joy of this parable. Luke shows us God’s love and mercy for sinful human beings. Trust that every time you turn to him in repentance, you will come away feeling washed clean from front to back, from top to bottom, and from head to toe.

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 137–138.