The conviction that the God of Jesus is a loving and merciful God is very powerful in today’s gospel, featuring three parables to illustrate that conviction. Through the images of a man leaving the 99 sheep to find the lost one, a woman searching for a single lost coin, and ultimately a “prodigal father” welcoming his lost son, we hear about how much God cares about us any time we go astray or are lost.
Jesus delivers these three parables because the Pharisees and the scribes are scandalized by his attitude toward sinners. To their grumbling, Jesus opposes a threefold invitation to “rejoice” for the finding of the lost sheep, lost coin, lost son. As he does so often, Jesus is challenging them to convert to a new image of God, best pictured in the last parable. God is indeed this loving Father who allows his youngest son the freedom to leave with his share of inheritance, but who also keeps waiting for his return and welcomes him warmly as his son, without asking for any apology from him.
As we read these parables, two questions remain. First, do we believe that we are never lost to the eyes of God? Second, are we going to grumble like the elder son, or will we rejoice when one of our brothers or sisters who “was dead” has come to life through God’s mercy?