Sunday, September 22, 2013

Joy at being found

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

When the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes began to complain: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The response of Jesus to this complaints are three parables that end with the same refrain: “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep;” “Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost;“ and “We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come back to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Through these parables, the Lord reveals to us that the reaction of the truly righteous to the return of sinners to the Lord should not be complaint but rejoicing. The Pharisees and scribes who enjoyed the reputation of righteousness amongst the Jewish circles complained upon seeing that sinners were drawing near to Jesus to listen to him. But the angels in heaven rejoice over the repentance of one sinner.

In fact, the repentance of a sinner should be cause for joy because it is the evidence of God’s search for us who were lost. Oftentimes we think that repentance is the result of a person’s search for God. The parables of the Lord tell us otherwise. Repentance is the result of God’s search for us. The sheep, once it discovers that it has gone astray, lays down helplessly and waits for its doom. The coin that rolls beneath furniture stays put and gathers dust. The wayward son sits in the pig sty and waits to be offered the pods on which the pigs are fed. Sinners return to God not because they found the Lord but because they were found by Him. Repentance is a sheer act of grace. And so, the repentance of sinners should be for us a cause for rejoicing because none of us would be here if the Lord had not searched for us.

St. Paul had nothing but gratitude towards the Lord Jesus because in spite of what his wayward life, the Lord called him into divine service: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” Isn’t this our common experience? Are we not all here because each of us has been mercifully treated by the Lord? If we have been found righteous, it is not because we have never gone astray for “all men have sinned and have been deprived of the glory of God.” If we are found trustworthy, it is because God searched for us and found us. And this is why we are all here. We are grateful that the Lord did not annihilate us on account of our sins. We are grateful that we have been mercifully treated by the Lord. “Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.” (Kami’y nagpapasalamat dahil kami’y iyong minarapat na tumayo sa harap mo para maglingkod sa iyo.) We do not gather here to flaunt our holiness. We gather here to show our gratitude: “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.” This Eucharist is our thanksgiving for once we were lost but now are found. We were blind but now we see.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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