24th Sunday Ordinary Time Reflections

This coming Sunday's Gospel has three parables all on the subject of  having , losing, searching, finding and celebrating being found: - the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep and searches for one lost one, the poor widow who loses her precious coin and finally the prodigal son .

These parables were told to the Pharisees and Scribes who were murmuring against Our Lord for stooping to receive and enlighten publicans and sinners. 
The coin lost was very small as coins go, but it meant much to the poor woman; hence her care in searching for it and joy at finding it. 

So, too, are the women despicable and of no value in the eyes of the Pharisees, who mean much to God.
All three parables explain the zealous love of Jesus in searching out people lost in the dark and hidden corners of their lives, and His great joy, when He has found them again.

The little parable in the middle of the trilogy is often overlooked. It shows the image of a woman who searches for a lost coin.  If the coin was a drachma it was the wages for two days for a woman,enough to feed the family for two days, so hardly a trivial amount. 

Image below James Tissot - The Lost Drachma - Image source here

It was also one of the coins which Jewish, and other Eastern women, sewed on to their head-dresses. 

Decent women were not seen without these which is why the loosened hair of the woman at the Master’s feet is noted. 

There's an interesting commentary on the head-dress from here and quoted below..

"In Judea, a bride came to her husband with at least ten silver coins sewn round her head-band, and often more: and her husband knew just how many there were, for he could see them.

They belonged to him, as she did, although the Law did not allow his creditors to seize these personal coins on his wife’s head.
In fact, a crafty might give his wife many such coins, yet owe much to a creditor, which was very annoying to the latter.

Nevertheless, woe betide the woman who lost her coins: the social reality of  the consequences of her loss would have been immense. 

Her husband would have suspected her of a wrong use of them; and the laws of divorce in those days were so heavily loaded against the wife that a man might divorce his wife if even one of those marital coins was missing from her headgear.

That was why that woman is sweeping so desperately. Just as the shepherd went to extraordinary lengths to find the lost sheep, so the woman uses up precious lamp oil and searches unceasingly  until she finds where the  coin has lodged, her anxiety amplified because she is also worrying about the cost of the oil for the lamp.

She was sweeping, not only for a bit of metal, but for home and shelter and respectability; for her right to a safe and honourable place in society, perhaps even for her right to her children.”

The lost coin has also been viewed by some theologians e.g. Mary Ann Beavis, as a metaphor for the work we have to do to find God.

Our work is in the ordinary and everyday place where God looks for us and where God is revealed to us. It takes place in the fields, the house and the world - it is a struggle to find what we are looking for and may require us to drop everything else, or turn around and swim against the tide. 

It may require time spent in the darkness of loss, the anxiety of being lost and alone.
But all three parables are characterised with the hope that the results of our search are not in vain.

God is with us. 
God is trudging the fields , sweeping and searching for us or just waiting and longing for us to come home too.
The lost coin invites me to seek and retrieve the lost and overlooked female images of God. 
Shepherd, woman and father are all equally good images for God, who expends great effort to procure the return of the lost and who hosts an exuberant celebration in their honour.

One of the things that makes the prodigal son such a powerful parable is that the story is left hanging - we don’t know what the elder brothers response is. 

but the whole point is to provoke a response from us - what would we do in his place?

God’s love is amazing. We don’t deserve God’s love, we don’t deserve His forgiveness. 

Yet once we experience it, who are we to question who God should forgive?

God’s open arms extend to all who will come to Him, they are open for you, for me and for anyone. 

All of us are in this parable somewhere, sometime. 

Whoever we are and wherever we are, we need to be found or to find our way home and trust that when we do so it will have been the best and most important decision we have ever made... 

In the end we are all back together again, the sheep, the coins, the family.

Nobody is superfluous ; nobody is left out in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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