Luke 15: 1-32
1 Now all the customs officers and the wicked had begun to frequent Jesus to listen to him. 2 But the Pharisees as well as the Bible scholars grumbled, complaining that he was opening his arms to the wanderers and eating with them.
3 Then Jesus told them this story from life: 4 "If any one of you had a hundred sheep and he lost one, would he not leave the ninety-nine in a desert place to go into walk towards the one who has lost itself as long as he has not found hit? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders full of joy. 6 When he comes home, he calls friends and neighbors, saying, 'Come and rejoice with me, because I found the sheep that I lost'. 7 In the same way, I say to you, there will be more joy in God over a single wanderer who takes a new position in life, than over ninety-nine irreproachable people who do not need to take a new position.
8 Another story. "Which woman, having the equivalent of ten days' wages, and who lost the equivalent of a sum of a single day's wages, would not light a lamp and would not sweep the house to search carefully as long as she will not find anything? 9 And after finding, she calls friends and neighbors saying, 'Come rejoice with me, because I found the money I had lost'. 10 In the same way, I say to you, there is joy among people who love God for a single wanderer who is repositioning his life."
11 Jesus adds another story. "There was a man with two sons. 12 The youngest said to his father, 'Dad, give me the portion of inheritance that is due to me from what you have'. Then the father shares his property. 13 And without waiting a long time, his suitcases made, the younger went on a journey to a distant country. And it was there that he wasted what he possessed by leading a dissolute life. 14 After having exhausted everything, it happened that there was a great scarcity in the country where he was, so that he began to experience poverty. Reacting, he offered his services to a citizen of the region, who sent him to the fields to take care of the pigs. 16 Oh! As he would have liked to eat the carobs devoured by the pigs, but no one gave it to him. 17 After stepping back to reflect, he said to himself, 'How many of my father's employees have all the bread they want, while I'm starving'. 18 So I'll get up to go to my father, and I'll say, 'Dad, I have sinned against God and against you, 19 and I have no right to be your son, but hire me as one of your servants'. 20 Then he gets up to go to his father. But as he is still far away, his father sees him at a distance and is upset to the very heart. He immediately runs to him and throws himself on his neck to kiss him. 21 And the son said to him, 'Dad, I have sinned against God and against you, I have no right to be called your son'. 22 Immediately the father speaks to his servants to ask them, 'Quickly, bring the most beautiful coat to put on, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his foot. 23 Bring the calf also being fattened, cut it down, and party with a banquet: 24 For this son was dead, he is now alive, he was lost, he is now found'. And they started to celebrate.
25 But the eldest son was still in the field. As he approached the house, he heard the music and the dance steps. 26 So he calls one of the service boys to inquire about what was going on. 27 They told him that his brother had come home, and that the father had slaughtered the calf that was being fattened, because he had found it in good health. 28 At that moment he became angry and did not even want to enter. Then the father went out to pray to him. 29 The eldest said this to his father: 'It has been so long since I am at your service and I have never disobeyed your rules, and yet you have never bothered to give me even a worthless thing like a male goat to celebrate with my friends 30 On the other hand, when your son is here, who comes back from having devoured all your possessions with the whores, you have taken the trouble to slaughter the fattened calf'. 31 The father answered him, 'My child, you are still with me, and you know that what is mine is also yours. 32 But it was necessary to celebrate and rejoice that your brother, who was dead, had returned to life, who was lost, has been found.' "
A world of wounded survivors
Gospel commentary - Homily
The attack in Nice (France) in July 2016 became a symbol of terrorist barbarism: 86 dead, including children and teenagers, crushed under the wheels of a crazy truck engaged on the "Promenade des Anglais". And we need to add more than 300 wounded. A real butchery. The author was of Tunisian origin and seems to have become radicalized in recent months. He was shot dead by the police. One can only be retching in front of such a horror, such a mess. So many lives crushed. And we understand the gesture of a number of people to go to the scene where the terrorist was shot to spit and throw waste, expression of rage and contempt. How to live such an event, since we can not remove it from our memories? Could the parables at Luke 15 serve as a guide?
We know the three parables of the shepherd who has a 100 sheep and who loses one, that of the woman who has 10 coins (about a day's wages each) and loses one, and that of the father whose younger son squandered his inheritance and end up in destitution. These are three disasters, three losses of something that is dear. These parables probably go back to Jesus to explain his action with the people who were considered as erring: by restoring relations with them and restoring the great family of Abraham's children, he not only fulfilled his mission, but he also reflected God's love for everyone and his joy at seeing them recover their greatness.
But in taking up these parables, Luke updates them according to his environment and his problems of the year 80, in the land of Greek culture of which Corinth is a typical example. In this seaport filled with immigrants, the Christian community is experiencing tensions (see 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34). Paul, who founded this community, must intervene to warn them that their way of celebrating the Eucharist in their shared meal was not a Christian meal, since there were divisions between poor and rich, so that the poor were still hungry and the rich were already drunk. These tensions still existed at the end of the first century, since they are echoed in a letter addressed to the Corinthians by Clement of Rome (considered the 4th bishop of Rome). We can guess the challenge stemming from this community made up of people of different ethnic origins and different religious cultures. What does Luc do? Let's look closely.
He knows the tradition of Mark where Jesus shared the table with rogue people. He uses it as an introduction to all three parables that were originally quite independent. Now the emphasis is no longer on the meaning of the approach to the misguided, but on the significance of the celebration at home of what had been lost. To support this emphasis, he gives an extension to the parables of the sheep and coin lost with a scene of rejoicing at home where friends and neighbors are invited. On the other hand, to make sure that the link with the tensions is well established during this celebration, which includes people who sometimes have a lackluster career, he modifies Mark's tradition to add the mention that people were "grumbling", so they were shocked, in front of the sight of Jesus sharing the table of the deviants. He does even more. He gives an extension to the story of the father and his younger son (which could very well end with the feast, without the story of the eldest son) by adding a scene of rebukes by the eldest son addressed to the father, responsible for the celebration, rebukes that could be summed up as follows: why is it not me who is highlighted? Am I not a veteran of irreproachable past? Why would I be forced to live the communion and the party with rogue people? The answer of the father is a conclusion to all the parables and that could be translated as: understand my perspective as a father, you have the chance to live in my intimacy, you are my child and you are loved, it's your turn to love your brother as I love him; so you too will celebrate seeing him at home around the same table.
What impact did such a story have on a community like Corinth at the end of the 1st century? The answer seems disappointing according to pope Clement. What matters is us today, we who have lived events like Nice. We have our mistakes. We have our disasters. And it seems that the first thing to do is to accept this situation as an integral part of our life. Indeed, why did the shepherd with his flock of 100 sheeps not build a fence, or even a wall to avoid disaster? Why has not the woman established better control over her money? Why did the father agree to give his share of inheritance to the youngest, knowing full well that the worst could happen? Ultimately, we need to come before God, if one is a believer, and wonder why such a world exists where Nice is possible? Of course, there is no real answer. But the fact remains that a fundamental decision must be taken: to welcome this world as it is, or to refuse it, to look at it in the face, or isolate oneself as much as possible. Jesus made a choice, and so he found himself in the midst of the misguided; Luke proposed a choice to his colorful community marked by the tensions, and thus made us this staging of three parables received from the tradition.
Making such a choice has big consequences. For our world ceases to be the futile search for a paradise of like-minded people, where events and freedom have disappeared, to become the opening to a wounded world, and thus the opening to the celebration of the wounded survivors, to the celebration of the bonds, once broken, now restored, and thus the discovery of this mysterious love at work in the universe, which formerly in theology was called salvation. It's a difficult world. It is a world that demands a love that often exceeds our abilities. It is a world that demands acceptance of sickness and madness, mistakes and distractions, where failure and broken relationships are just stepping stones to work better and harder. The crazy act of Nice will be followed by other actions of rogue people. Each time the question arises: how to make the wanderers join our table? There will be failures, but also the promise of living the same experience as Jesus and of which Luke told us the story in his own way: yes, we are going to live an immense celebration of healed people. This is the meaning of the Christian life, according to Luke, this is how we are salt of the earth. Only if we continue to believe ...
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, September 2016