Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The three parables we hear today go to the heart of the spiritual life. God doesn’t want you to jump through hoops to please him. It is not about earning our way into heave. God is the one who searches for us. These parables show God’s quest for us. In many ways the life of faith can be reduced to this: allow yourself to be found by God.
A feature of all three parables is the craziness of the one who searches. What man would leave ninety-nine sheep to go in search of one? No one! The sheep are the livelihood of the shepherd if he left the ninety-nine he might lose half of them when he returns.
Why would God worry about one soul? He can just concentrate on those who are faithful, those who are in the pews. But that is what he does; he does not want to lose even one. If a parent had four kids if he lost one he would not say: well I have three more, let’s not worry about him. God acts in the same way; he does not want to lose one person. God is the one who searches for the one who is lost. He is crazy in love with us.
The woman who loses one coin turns the house upside down to find it. But the coin is worth five cents. If it was a $100 maybe let’s clean the whole house, but it is only a nickel. And then when she finds it she invites the neighbors over to celebrate. They might ask what are we celebrating? When she tells them they would think she is crazy. God is crazy in love of us. He searches for the smallest and least significant one among us, and never gives up.
And then with the lost son, a famous parable, the Father is greatly insulted by the request of the son: give me the money now, not when you die. The Father has the right to reject the son and never see him again, but he waits and waits for his return. It is the very opposite of what a father would do in those days. He would have the right to disown him, but in the parable he waits and he runs to him when he sees him a long way off. He is crazy in love with him. There is no punishment; he opens his arms and throws him a feast.
Maybe our image of God is the opposite of what we see today. We think we have to be perfect or to be good for him to love us, but the Bible shows us something completely different. The son is very selfish with the Father and yet he waits and waits for the son to return.
Let us look a bit at the three things that are lost: a coin, a sheep and a son. A coin is inanimate. It has no feelings; it doesn’t know it is lost. Sometimes there are people like this. They are spiritually dead, far from God and have no sense of where they are at. They do not see the meaning of their life and are very alienated. I was like this in college and what woke me up was seeing a group of young people who gave their lives for the Church. I had never seen this before; it changed the rest of my life.
So is there hope for this kind of person? Absolutely! God searches for them; he doesn’t wait at home, is not waiting for them to live in a better way. He goes out to look for them.
A sheep, on the other hand, is more mobile, has feelings and an appetite. Have you ever heard a sheep that is in danger? They cry out all night and hope someone hears them. He is at least aware that he is a mess. There are some people like this also. At some point in their life they call out to God, help me! This situation is more than I can stand. And God finds them and sends them someone: a neighbor, a fried, a message from a homily.
And finally there is the son who is not a coin or a sheep but a person who is more complex. He is conscious of his rebellion, of his sins, and he can take into account his situation. He makes a rational decision to go back home. He realizes he is lost and wants to go back. The Father respects his son and gave his freedom to go and now he waits for him; he runs to meet him. The Father is crazy in love for his son.
What do the woman, the shepherd and the Father show us about God? He operates in various ways to find those who are lost. He does whatever it takes. What is their reaction when they find what is lost? They are all filled with joy! He cleans, he carries and he welcomes and when they are found he always rejoices. It is a parable of the crazy love that God has for each one of us. Think of this when you have a few minutes, and what is your response to this crazy love?