September 16, 2007
ORDINARY 24 (C)
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. – Luke 15: 7
Our Lord’s preoccupation with retrieving the lost may seem like romantic nonsense to our practical, common sense thinking. After all, loss is inevitable & we must be realistic about what is possible. Yet the Son of Man does not settle for loss. Could it be that we have become too impressed by transience & our own inability to search & retrieve? Have we become numb to the pain of missing what was once part of our identity, & accepting it as the normal way of things? When it comes to the divisions among Christians, it would seem that we have done precisely that. The whole point of looking for the one lost sheep & one coin is to restore wholeness to God’s people.
It would also seem that we have become numb to the need for repentance. We need to understand that repentance is what it takes to heal the broken relationship, not just between ourselves & God but also between each other. Until we are honest with ourselves about what & where we have been, we cannot be honest with ourselves about what we should become & where we should be going.
The mother of a little girl was preparing to attend a very special social event she had been looking forward to with pleasure for a long time. The new dress she had bought for the occasion was carefully laid out on her bed. But the little girl didn’t want her parents to go out that night & she put up quite a fuss about it.
When the mother was out of the bedroom, the little girl thought she had found away to keep her mother home. She took a pair of scissors & slashed the new party dress, ruining it completely. When the mother came back she just couldn’t believe her eyes. Instead of exploding & becoming very angry, she just fell across the bed crying bitterly, completely oblivious to her daughter’s presence in the room.
When the little girl saw her mother’s reaction, she realized the seriousness of what she had done, & started tugging at her mother’s skirts, calling out, “Mommy, Mommy.” But her mother continued to ignore her, acting as though she didn’t exist. The little girl, more & more desperate, cried out louder, “Mommy, please!” Finally, the mother responded: “Yes? What is it you want?” The girl answered, “Mommy, please take me back.”
Notice she didn’t say, “I’m sorry,” or “I won’t do it again,” or a lot of things that might need to be said later. She had gone to the heart of the matter – the broken relationship.
True repentance means asking God to take us back. It is not a matter of convincing God that He should forgive us, or moving Him to compassion with tears & pleadings. God never withdraws His love. It is a matter of changing our own minds & hearts, of really understanding why there will be more joy in heaven over one repentant soul than over 99 who have no need to repent. The reason is that the 99 simply do not exist. All of us, without exception, are called to change, to reverse our values & find acceptance.
To forgive is to acknowledge that only love can overcome the evil that divides & alienates us, that only love can heal our wounded relationships. It is a lesson well worth learning. AMEN!