“Rejoice with me”
Humility is the condition of our rejoicing, the condition of our redemption in Christ. Luke presents us with a very powerful message about the nature of humility as the counter to human pride and about the divine redemption of our humanity. The context is animosity and hostility. Tax Collectors and sinners, the despised and the outcast of the world, draw near to Jesus; Pharisees and Scribes, religious leaders, murmur in contempt because of the company which he keeps. They are scandalised. Doesn’t he know with whom he is associating? How can he be a true religious teacher? Jesus response is revelatory and transforming. He tells two parables; actually, three. We have in today’s reading two of the three, the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. The third parable is the tremendous parable of the prodigal son.
The fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke comprises these three parables, each told in sequence. It is a most powerful illustration of the message about redemption and humility. Humility is the counter to our pride which pretends to our self-sufficiency, on the one hand, and our self-centredness, on the other hand. Either we have it all and need nothing outside ourselves or we presume to think that we deserve what we presently don’t have but desire. The gospel of humility is the counter to our pride.
The lost sheep, the lost coin. What do they teach us? Simply this. They teach us the humility of God which is given to shape our souls in the love of Christ. The lost sheep is precious; the lost coin is precious. The shepherd and the woman seek diligently – lovingly – for the one that is lost. Without them the community is incomplete; our humanity less than itself. God seeks the lost. In him we are found.
The third parable captures most fully the dynamic of grace at work in bringing us home to ourselves. We cannot read these two parables without being aware of the third – or at least we shouldn’t. It is the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son.