I would have made a good Pharisee, like the ones Jesus addresses in today’s Gospel. I would have tried to argue with Jesus and I would have gone home justified in my thinking: It’s all well and good to rejoice over a lost sheep or to rejoice over a lost coin. That’s easy. The sheep and the coin were the livelihood for a poor shepherd or housewife.
But how can the same rejoicing be applied to the following cases: a husband who walked out on his wife and children and now wants to come back; an alcoholic son who wants to give sobriety another try, yet again; a classmate who is sorry that her gossip damaged her friend’s reputation; a stranger who beat me up and asks forgiveness; an immoral politician who has turned over a new leaf; a business person who defrauded people and wants to make restitution.
Good for you, angels of God, that you rejoice over the repentant sinner! Maybe it’s easy for you to rejoice over a repentant sinner, just like a shepherd rejoices over a lost sheep or a housewife rejoices over a lost coin. But, it’s not easy for me to forgive those who have hurt me or made my life difficult.
Is Jesus serious? He is. And so I gaze upon the crucified Lord who is suffering and dying for me, and ask for the powerful grace to forgive others as I have been forgiven by the Lord: my rock, my fortress, my salvation.
—Ted Munz, S.J., Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits