Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2021)

Thursday, November 4 2021
Week 31 in Ordinary Time

St Charles Borromea, bishop

1st Reading: Romans 14:7-12

In life and in death we belong to God; hence we love each other

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Responsorial: Psalm 26:1, 4, 13-14

R./: I trust I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
 before whom shall I shrink? (R./)

There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long,
 to live in the house of the Lord,
 all the days of my life,
 to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
 to behold his temple. (R./)

I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
 in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord! (R./)

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10

Joy in heaven over finding the one lost sheep (or lost coin)

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Looking for the lost sheep

It seems that Jesus never refused an invitation to a dinner-party. Many of his sayings were spoken at meals with various hosts. Both parables conclude with the recovery of lost goods [a lost sheep or lost silver pieces] and the finder inviting friends and neighbours to share some food and drink, 'Rejoice with me, because I found what I lost!' Such happy encouters are compared with God's joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, more than over the ninety-nine righteous who have no need to repent.

We are all reflected in the ninety-nine sheep that stayed put, as well as in the one lost sheep that wandered off and would not stay under control. We have ideas and talents that we are well aware of and that help us make our living. These may constitute the ninety-nine percent of our righteous selves that does not need to repent. But perhaps God has put an unpredictable and unruly talent or quality into us. Stretching the parable a bit, this easily lost part of ourselves can be a special moment of time or a unique opportunity crossing our path, chances and graces so fleeting that they can easily pass us by. All of us possess some talents and inspirations, for ourselves or the church, for our family, neighbourhood or country, that seem too idealistic even to talk about. They might be spoiled or injured by ridicule or simply by cool indifference. Or they might turn out to demand so much of ourselves that we try to suppress them. Such inspirations could become crucial turning points in our lives--whether to forgive another and be reconciled, to volunteer assistance badly needed by a marginalised group, or to make a clear decision for marriage for priesthood or for some other vocational choice.

From this we can also appreciate Paul's injunction against harshly judging one's neighbour. We judge from the evidence we see; but what we see may be just the ninety-nine per cent, the one other one being lost to view. Our judgment seldom takes into consideration the value of the lost sheep or coin, which only God can see. But when the lost one is found, the ninety-nine also get new insight, for we must all be like the shepherd who never ceases to cares for those outside the margins, whom he came to find.

Divine searching

If one is prone to losing things, we occasionally have to search hard for something we have lost. It may be necessary to search for people too. Parents search for their children if they ramble off. Men and women seek out a special person to share their lives with. We all search for friends, people with whom we can journey and who want to journey with us. Underneath all our searching is a fundamental search, for the God who alone can satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts.

It has been said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God (St Augustine). Even more basic than our search for God is God's search for us. To paraphrase St John, God's love for us took flesh in the person of Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. The whole life of Jesus made visible God's continual search for us. The shepherd who searches for his lost sheep and the woman who searches for her lost coin are images of this divine searching. God seeks us out because we are all lost in different ways. Our search for God is in response to God's search for us. In the words of the first letter of Saint John, "We love because God first loved us."