Finding the lost sheep is a joy to God, because he has a “loving weakness” for those who are lost. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Mass on Thursday morning in Casa Santa Maria.
Commenting on the parables of the lost sheep and of the lost coin, Pope Francis talked about the attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees, who were scandalized by the things that Jesus did. They murmured against him: “This man is dangerous, he eats with the publicans and the sinners, he offends God, he desecrates the ministry of the prophet to accost these people”. Jesus, the Pope explained, says that this “is the music of hypocrisy”, and “answers this hypocrisy with a parable”.
“He replies to this murmuring with a joyful parable. The words ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’ appear in this short text four times: three times joy, and once happiness, “And you” – it’s as if he were saying – “you are scandalized by this, but my Father rejoices”. That is the most profound message of this story: the joy of God, a God who doesn’t like to lose. God is not a good loser, and this is why, in order not to lose, He goes out on his own, and He goes, He searches. He is a God who searches: He searches for all those who are far away from Him, like the shepherd who goes to search for the lost sheep.”
The work of God, the Pope continued, is to “go and search”, in order to “invite everyone to the celebrations, good and bad.”
“He can’t stand losing one of His own. And this is the prayer of Jesus, too, on Holy Thursday: “Father, may none get lost, of those You have given to me”. He is a God who walks around searching for us, and has a certain loving weakness for those who are furthest away, who are lost. He goes and searches for them. And how does he search? He searches until the end, like the shepherd who goes out into the darkness, searching, until he finds the sheep. Or like the woman, when she loses a coin, who lights a lamp and sweeps the house, and searches carefully. That’s how God searches. “I won’t lose this son, he’s mine! And I don’t want to lose him.” This is our Father: he always comes searching for us.
Then, Pope Francis explained, “when he has found the sheep” and brought it back into the fold with the others, no one must say’ you are lost’, but everyone should say ‘you are one of us’, because this returns dignity to the lost sheep. “There is no difference”, because God “returns to the fold everyone he finds. And when he does this, he is a God who rejoices”.
“The joy of God is not the death of the sinner, but the life of the sinner. And how far from this were those who murmured against Jesus, how far from the heart of God! They didn’t know Him. They thought that being religious, being good people meant always being well-mannered and polite, and often pretending to be polite, right? This is the hypocrisy of the murmuring. But the joy of God the Father, in fact, is love. He loves us. “But I’m a sinner, I’ve done this and that and the other!” “But I love you anyway, and I go out searching for you, and I bring you home.” This is our Father. Let’s reflect on this.”
+Fr. John Amsberry