The Gospel is clear: Celebration is an essential part of being a Christian
A Reflection for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’” (Lk 15:9)
In some ways, today’s readings are both the easiest and the most difficult to reflect on. If I were preaching today, I would be tempted to simply stand up and reread the Gospel a few times over. What more is there to say, really? The three parables of Luke 15 have been said to contain a “Gospel within a Gospel.” The lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, told in such quick succession, give us a cliffs notes of Jesus’ message: God has an infinite capacity for mercy. Centuries later, the plots, characters and images should continue to shock and disorient our logic of forgiveness.
But since simply asking you to reread the Gospel might be viewed as a preacher’s shortcut (and since, as a subscriber, you’ve paid good money for this reflection), I’ll offer one common thread (among many) that might be easy to miss in all three parables: celebration.
Do I know how to rejoice always? Or do I simply move on to the next task, the next item on my to-do list?
After the shepherd finds his lost sheep, “he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Once the woman finds her lost coin, “she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’” And there is of course the third act of the prodigal son, where the son returns and the father instructs his servants to “Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast.”
These are not minor transitional lines. In fact, descriptions of celebration make up nearly half of the word count in the first two parables. You might even wonder about the economics of the celebrations. The party might have cost more than the found coin was worth.
The joy God experiences after finding the lost is a joy that we are called to mirror as a Christian community. In “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes: “An evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization.”
It knows how to rejoice always. Do I know how to rejoice always? Do I celebrate the wins, big and small? Do I invite my friends to share in my joy? Or do I simply move on to the next task, the next item on my to-do list?
Today’s Gospel is a reminder that taking a break to celebrate isn’t something we need to feel guilty about. For Christians, it’s essential to building the kingdom of God.