Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This might seem a bit unusual, but I would like to take a moment this week and revisit the Gospel from last Sunday. It’s not because the deacons preached and I thought they left something out. In fact, they did their usual fine job of taking the readings and relating them to our current experience of faith. Rather, I was so struck by the Gospel that I feel impelled to go back and spend just a bit more time with it.
When we encounter the Sacred Scriptures at Mass and in other liturgies, it is fairly obvious that we’re not dealing with entire books all at once. Typically, we have a section of a given book of the Bible to contend with. These sections, known as pericopes, can be long or short, be about a miracle or feature a parable, or recount
some important moment in salvation history. Pericopes are a cohesive unit and express a unified message within them. What is selected to be put together by the original authors and the wisdom of the Church, help inform what meaning we might draw from them.
Last week, we heard the first 32 verses of chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke. It’s a lot of verses, a lengthy pericope. Within it, we hear one parable, and then a second one, and a third one to round things out. A lost sheep is found and we rejoice. A lost coin is found and we rejoice. A lost son is found and we rejoice. The content and the structure of the passage is not unlike the construction of most jokes. Known as the rule of three,
many jokes are based on a premise, a reinforcement of the premise, and a payoff. Payoffs can either go over the top of the premise in a comical way or can somehow subvert expectations and find humor in that regard.
The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son; one of them on their own is a powerful story of God’s love and forgiveness. But to consider all three together, as St. Luke wrote it, really hammers home that message. It’s a message that we all need to be reminded of. God’s mercy and deep, abiding love is something we should never tire of hearing. For God certainly never tires of welcoming us back whether we’re a sheep, a coin, or a beloved son or daughter. The closing verse, the payoff of the pericope sums up how God must truly feel as we return to Him, “But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”
May we be found in God’s great mercy and rejoice in His forgiveness found in Reconciliation and the Sacraments.
Peace and Goodness,