Have you ever lost anything that is very precious to you; just anything? There are some legendary stories about lost items that were found after so many years. A Georgian resident, Burton Maugans lost his wallet while water-skiing and the same wallet was found after twenty-four years by the shore in North Carolina with his driver’s license and other ids intact. Years ago, a professor ordered an old book, and it turned out to be the same book he lost four years earlier.
There are other stories of people who got missing and were found after many years when their families and friends had presumed that they were dead. The experience of losing our possessions probably starts from childhood. You could remember those times you misplace your toys or other tiny properties, and you cry and want the entire world to stand still until you find them. The joy of finding lost things often transcends the pain of losing them.
To sin is to Get Lost
One of the destructive effects of sin is that it cuts us away from God (Isaiah 59:2). Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel of John that when we are cut off from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). The First Reading (Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14), narrates the dialogue between Moses and God on Mount Sinai where God tells Moses about His displeasure over the sins of the people and His plan to blot them out entirely and raise another nation through him.
God was telling Moses that the people strayed from Him due to their evil mind and obduracy. To stray is another way of saying that they got lost by following the desires of their hearts, namely, making a molten calf and worshipping it. Reacting to God’s decision to wipe away the people, Moses pleads and reminds Him of His oath of abundant blessing to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 15:1-32), our Lord reacts to the complaint of the Pharisees and the Scribes about his closeness to tax collectors and sinners; in fact, they said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Typical of our Lord Jesus Christ, he appeals to the power of parables to give them a great answer, in this case, he rolls out three interconnected parables that dwell on the theme of lost and found.
The first parable talks about a single sheep straying from a fold of a hundred sheep and how the shepherd left the ninety-nine in the desert to look for the lost one. The story can only make sense to us when we see it as a parable, not a real event because leaving ninety-nine sheep in the desert to look for one strayed one appears preposterous. From the illustrative point of view, what is essential is the lost sheep that needs rescue.
In the second parable, our Lord talks about a woman with ten coins losing one and how she would light a lamp and search the house carefully until she finds it. The more exciting part of it is that calls her neighbors and friends to rejoice with her over the lost and found coin.
The woman could be a widow and childless as there were no indications of husband and children. Furthermore, the money appears to be very important to her as she couldn’t wait till dawn to look for it. Finding it, she could not keep quiet; in fact, her neighbors and friends had to lose some sleep to rejoice with her. Our Lord’s concluded this parable by linking the event to how heavens rejoice when the lost (sinner) is found.
While the first two parables talk about an animal and an inanimate object, respectively, the third parable talks about a lost human being. While in the first two parables the owners go in search for them, in the parable of the lost son (also known as the prodigal son), the lost person comes back on his own and makes himself available to be found after coming to his senses.
We are like the Lost Sons
For the everyday reader of third parable in Gospel today, there seems to be one lost son, but an active reading would show that the parable is also about the older son who became lost when his brother was found.
The parable tells us that the younger son comes to his father to ask for his share of his estate. His father was not dead, and he could only have a share if it appears on the father’s will. The younger son’s request was totally out of order. Contrary to everyone’s expectation, the father did not resist; he divided all he had into two and gave him one part and getting his things together; he travels to a distant country.
The country is called distant or far (as some other translations would say) because it represents a disconnection with the father. To be in a distant country is to be lost and nothings subsist in a distant country. The Book of Proverbs (21:16) says that a man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead. The latter explains the plight of the younger son as the distant country goes into recession, famine, and hunger.
The turning point was when the younger son comes to his senses and decides to go back to his father and apologize for his mistakes and misdeeds. It was on his way back that his father sighted him and runs to welcome him back to his house and goes further to restore his lost status and privileges.
However, the flip side of the narrative shows that the older son was not happy that his lost brother was found, so he decides to stay away from the return-party in honor of his missing brother that was found. At this point the older son switched places with his brother; the lost was found, and the one who was not missing got lost.
The parables point to the fact that sin takes us away from God; we become lost when we make wrong decisions and choices that disconnect us from God and take us to a “distant country.” They also tell us that God is continuously in search for us as He does not take pleasure in the death of the lost (Ezekiel 33:11).
The second point of the third parable is that we could sin not only by outright commission like the younger son but also by some prideful attitudes like that of the older son. If we take a closer look at the words and actions of the elder son, we will discover that he already judged and condemned his younger his brother. The last thing he would like to hear is that his lost brother is found alive and would regain what he lost by his disconnection from the father.
As we march into the new week we are invited to come to our senses like the younger son and to find our way back towards the Father as He would receive us to Himself and restore all we have lost by straying away. Furthermore, we are invited to pay attention to our attitude to others whom we tag as unrighteous. Often our disposition in our so-called righteousness could make us worse than those we label as sinners.
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.