31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday
“Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:6).
“Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost” (Luke 15:9).
“But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:32).
In Luke’s trilogy of joy, God presents himself as a shepherd, a woman, and a father in the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son. The choirs of angels in the court of heaven “rejoice” with the Lord at the restoration of grace to sons and daughters who had wandered far away (Luke 15:10).
The Greek words for “rejoice” (sugchairó and chairó) spring from “grace” (charis)—divine favor, gift, blessing, or kindness. The angel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary with, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” and “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:28, 30). Mary was filled with grace by her union with the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ within her womb.
At the Annunciation, the divine shepherd, woman, and father of the parables commenced their longing search for humankind upon the earth. Jesus and Mary, radiant with the grace of divine life, light and energy, restored paradise to Adam and Eve by their “Yes” to the Father.
The tireless shepherd searched high and low in mountains and valleys to retrieve the one lost sheep, humankind. In many of the Church Fathers, the other ninety-nine represent the blessed angels: “This one sheep is the man Adam, whom in the beginning the Lord had created in his image and likeness. This one strayed from the company of the angels by sinning, and through him the entire human race strayed from God.”1 The Good Shepherd descended to earth “to save the one sheep that had perished, that is, the human race.”2
The lost coin is stamped with “the royal likeness and image” according to St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. John Chrysostom.3 The coin has a homing instinct built in, a potentiality for grace and glory. The prodigal son is the father’s very flesh and blood. In all three parables, what was lost is found, and what was dead has come back to life.
“Rejoice!” the choirs of angels resound around the throne of the Blessed Trinity. “Rejoice!” for grace has been restored to Adam and he has come home.
1 Epiphanius the Latin, Interpretation of the Gospels 27.
2 Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 3.18.12.