In St. Luke’s Gospel - which we have been reading since last December – we hear many stories or parables about people who are neglected, forgotten, ignored, or lost in some way.
St. Luke writes about women, beggars, lepers, upset workers, widows, tax collectors, and the poor – which indicates Jesus, and Luke’s, compassion and empathy for common people.
People were important to Luke – because people were important to Christ – and so people should be important to us.
We used a short version of the Gospel today. The longer version contains two more parables about the lost familiar to us:
A shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in order to find one lost sheep — and the story of two lost sons – one who left home to squander his inheritance – one who stayed home but felt neglected — both of whom – still loved dearly by their father.
I chose to focus on the middle of the three parables – one that is often neglected in favor of the other two.
All three of these stories are about lost things that are found – and even though we are not sheep or a coin – these two stories are also about people who stray and need to be found.
As Pope Francis said of this trio of stories: “God is not a good loser, and this is why, in order not to lose anything –
God goes out and searches – God searches for all those who are far away – strained in their relationships with God and others – like a sheep, like a coin, like a son.”
So picture a woman – living in a small house, one of several on a crowded village street.
A kindly lady who gets by on very little. Her days consist in sewing and knitting, cooking and gardening, cleaning and conversations with neighbors.
Though she is far from rich, she does have some money – ten silver coins that are of great value to her.
But one day she discovers that one is gone!
According to the original Greek, the coins were drachmas – each equivalent to a Roman silver denarius – which represents about a day’s wages. So let’s say in today’s money she had $1,000 and now found $100 missing.
Add to this that in the Middle Eastern culture in which this woman lived – money was not a common commodity among ordinary folks in rural villages – this woman – like most in her town - would have been to a large extent - self-sufficient: making her own cloth, growing her own food, milking her own goat - and getting by the best she could.
Cash and coinage would be a rare thing - hence the lost coin is of far greater value in her home than it would be in ours -
having more value than the day’s labor it represents monetarily.
In any case, we can see that one missing coin amon ten would be a terrible loss for her. We can imagine her heart skipping a beat as she gasps with shock as she discovers her loss.
Has she mislaid it - or dropped it? Has someone come in and taken it? It was enough to send her into a panic. Where could the coin be??
A typical house had a few slits for windows or no windows at all – so there was little light in the house. To search for the lost coin required more light. Oil for a lamp was not cheap – and so she normally saves the lamp for night – but she must find that coin. . .
So with the lamp lit – the search is on. Out comes the broom, and she carefully begins a methodical and thorough search.
Across the packed-earth floor and under the reed mats and pottery vessels – she searches. But nothing shows up.
Again - she goes back over the same area but from a different angle, the light from the lamp casting different shadows.
Just as she is about to end the second search without any success – she sees a small glimmer.
There it is! The coin is found! Quickly she picks it up and blows away the dust. Yes! She exclaims. “There you are! I thought you were gone, never to be found.”
She rushes out of her house calling to her neighbors: “Come, rejoice and celebrate with me! The coin I lost has been found!”
You can imagine the shared joy of her friends – thankful she’s no longer at wit’s end and that she still has all her valuable coins. Inner calm returns. Life is once again normal and peaceful.
It’s a simple, straight-forward occurrence told in just three verses. . . but what’s in it for us?
All three parables in Luke’s 15th chapter - the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son - all concern the restoration of lost relationships: and ultimately how God seeks out people who were lost to Him and bringing them back into a loving relationship with Him.
That’s certainly the point - and we must all realize our need to be found by God. Because all of us are lost in someway.
But a more important point – is that God desires us to be like HIM: to see the importance of relationships with other people and striving to reconcile and restore relationships that are broken.
So who are the lost sheep, the lost coins, the lost children in our lives –who need to be found?
God is not a good loser - and neither should we. Even though God has 99 of the lost sheep – 9 of the lost coins – and still one son at home–
God wants them all – all 100, all 10, both the older and younger son. . . And God desires us to be like him!
It’s God’s plan – and must become our plan – to gather all the lost outcasts and join them together in the larger body that God is building: the kingdom of justice and peace.
That’s the challenge before us – to help build the kingdom of the lost and forsaken – the kingdom for beggars and lepers and women and orphans and all those who are on the margins.
So the ultimate question of the day: will we let ourselves be found – and then go out and find those who are still lost – and bring them to the kingdom – the banquet table of the saint as well as the sinner?
For God rejoices when the lost is found - every wayward soul come to holy ground. Like the silver drachma when it rolls around. God rejoices when the lost is found.
Moments in time...