Lost. Found. Joyful.
(24thOrdinary Sunday: Exodus 32:7-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32)
Today the Church offers us the entire fifteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It contains three parables about recovering what was lost, all in response to the single criticism of the Pharisees and scribes: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The theme in each case is: There is “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.”
Sin is evident in the other readings as well. God’s wrath flared up when he saw his people worshiping the molten calf. Moses reminded him of his oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and “the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.”
Psalm 106:23 summarizes this episode as follows: “[The Lord] would have decreed their destruction, had not Moses, his chosen one, withstood him in the breach to turn back his destroying anger.” This is how the words of Mary at La Salette, about the arm of her Son, have been understood from the beginning, although today various more nuanced explanations have also been proposed.
St. Paul is deeply conscious of his sinful past as a persecutor, and of the mercy that God has shown him. The transformation has been remarkable, and Paul is eager to spread the word that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This means that those who acknowledge their sinfulness may be confident of a merciful hearing. The Beautiful Lady reminds her people of their sins, precisely in view of offering hope of forgiveness.
In the first two parables, the concept of sin cannot be directly applied to a sheep or a coin; but Jesus equates being a sinner with being lost.
The third, on the other hand, perhaps the most beloved of all the parables, describes the sin of the younger son in detail, and the depths of despair into which he falls. Another important difference is that the father does not search for the son, but in his mercy watches and waits.
The Blessed Virgin of La Salette could wait no longer. The urgency of her message is clear. Her people were lost. She came to find them, so that they could in turn find her Son and be welcomed back by him in joy.