90 Day Challenge – Day 81

Just Getting Started? Read what you’ve missed and check out Bible reading resources

Bible Time Period: Messianic Fulfillment

You sent your only Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, to fulfill all your promises: Give me new life in him.

Reflection

Jesus uses a number of parables in today’s reading to explain the nature of the kingdom of God that he is establishing.  (A parable here is a comparison in which something “real” is used to get across a spiritual meaning.)  As you read, take note of the reaction of the Jewish leaders to the things Jesus says.

Do you find yourself wondering, who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees?  Back when Hellenization began to threaten Jewish identity (see Day 74 of this reading challenge), some of the Jews drew apart into what became a distinct class of “separated ones,” the Pharisees.  They focused on personal piety and were devoted to the Law.  By the time of Christ, they were the religious experts and were respected sources of teaching and authority.

Beginning around the same time in Israel’s history, the Sadducees became the dominant priestly party.  They tended to be wealthy political leaders who allied themselves with Greece and Rome.  They were at times opposed by the Pharisees, who advocated a strict separatism.

Today’s Reading

Luke 13-16

Today’s Question

Luke 15 contains three parables of “lost” things (a sheep, a coin, and a son).  What do they illustrate about God?
For deeper thought:  how does the Prodigal Son show us a picture of Israel?

Join the discussion below!

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Margie

    The Prodigal Son returns does depict Israel when it returned to Jerusalem from exile, (the book of Ezra). Their worship was restored as they rebuilt the altar of God of Israel. God had to be so grateful the people returned to honor the laws of God that were presented to Moses.

  • Margie

    I love all the responses everyone gave. These parables are surely Jesus’s confirmation how God loves everyone so much that no matter what they’ve done or how far they have wandered, honest and sincere repentance and returning to God is all God ever wanted, since the beginning of Exodus.

  • Marian Potts

    I think of the main theme of Mother Theresa which were the words of Jesus on the cross,
    “I thirst.” God thirst for souls. He is mercy and love. He is always seeking the lost. He forgives-nothing will block his forgiveness and mercy. Our refusal to accept Him is the only thing that blocks our redemption.

  • These illustrate Jesus’ particular concern for the lost and God’s love for the repentant sinner. Though a sheep, coin, and son are the metaphors used by Jesus, verse 7 and 15:10 make clear that He is referring to sinners. He is responding to the complaint of verse 2 and rebuking the self-righteousness of Israel’s religious leaders and their lack of concern for the lost. These parables reiterate Jesus’ point: divine initiative is taken to recover that which is lost and, when the lost is found, there is joyous celebration in heaven. These parables both justify and explain Jesus’ actions in associating with tax collectors and sinners. Three times Jesus reiterates His point: God’s desire is to find the lost and, when they are found, there is great joy in heaven (see vs 24, 32). However, this point is made more subtly in His third parable. While the “seeking” component is present (see vs 20), it is less prominent in comparison to vs 4, 8. Rather, Jesus emphasizes the Father’s mercy toward repentant sinners—those mentioned in verse 1.

  • Kevin

    In a shallow sense, it could be misunderstood that people of strong faith during their whole-lives, or at least the last several years of their lives could be saddened or disheartened by these parables… If you know of anyone like this, remind them that if these faithful people were to go out and help find lost sheep and bring them back, there should be GREAT reward for doing so!!!

    Let us not forget how good it feels to “get something back” that was lost. Even for small physical things like loosing our wallet while in a rest room, or purse, or keys, etc… Let us also keep in mind how even more grateful we are when someone ELSE, especially someone we do not even know, says, “Here, are you looking for this” and hands it to us…
    Now compare that to loosing track of a CHILD

    • Lori Bisser

      So true! – our boys were pretty little (7 and 9) when we “misplaced” them at Trevi Fountain! If you’ve ever been there in the evening – it can be packed and confusing. Many vendors hawking their wares, people speaking every language, a sea of bodies. A lady, a momma with a stroller from Spain saw they were lost and stayed with them until they found us. What a relief. What gratitude we felt to the woman, AND to God for hearing our desperate “arrow” prayers in the moment. God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

      • Kevin

        That reminds me when I was very little, maybe 5 or 6… I’ll tell a story on myself… We went on a Family Trip. I was lost at the Tourist place where they filmed the movie Bonanza. Each vehicle thought I was in the other vehicle. When they all met up a while later at a restaurant near Lake Tahoe. They discovered I was not there… My poor parents, being from a very small town in Western Montana, were VERY worried about loosing their kid in a “Big City” place like that… I had been wandering around looking at all the displays/signs/sights when they all got in the cars and left. It now reminds me of “The Finding in the Temple”

        The HUGE emotional swing of Mary/Joseph must have experienced, first horror/agony/anguish in realizing that their Son was missing for so long, then the huge Relief/Joy/Happiness of finding him again. My parents must have experienced similar… However, I was only missing for maybe an hour…

  • Susan

    The three parables of lost things teaches us as it did the Jews of Jesus’ time that those who are most lost can become one of the saved if they will only say, “I have sinned, I want to sin no more and I want to follow Jesus.” Each of these parables (the sheep, coin and son) talk about one that has been lost but who repents; these parables focus on the effort find those who are lost and the celebration after finding the lost “thing.” Jesus is not truly needed by those who are faithful in their beliefs according to the Messianic Law and the laws that Jesus’ state – those who have sinned greatly but can be saved are his focus – thankfully so.

    The Prodigal Son is a tale of the Israelites personified – they were given all that could be asked for: escape from Egypt’s enslaving, leaders who were guided by the Lord to bring the Israelites toward their Promised Land, all their needs were cared for during their 40-year journey, entry into the Promised Land with each of the twelve tribes inheriting what was theirs as spoken by the Lord, they received judges when they asked for them, kings when they petitioned for a king, they were given the full inheritance of their Heavenly Father just like the Prodigal Son. In the same vain, they also squandered their inheritance and fell deeply into sin as they brought foreign-born wives into their midst, worshipped pagan gods and gave into idolatry. When they reached their low points (there were many) throughout Salvation History they came back to the Lord and he put the robes of dignity back on them, figuratively speaking, and provided the banquets for them to rejoice in their worship of the Lord. There are great parallels between the Israelites and the parable of the Prodigal Son.

  • pnkyB4brain

    Israel was so impetuous with it’s relationship with God. The nation would be faithful to God’s Word until something that seemed to be better than God’s covenant would come knocking on the door. It reminds me of a child growing up and wishing for that total independence that he/she can do on their own! Once the nation realized that they needed the spiritual guidance of our heavenly Father after their disassociation with God would result in famine, lack of leadership, etc., they returned to their Father, just like the prodigal son.
    This parable summarizes the roaming that the chosen people engaged in that led them astray numerous times from God. The brother who stayed with the father that was quite put out because his father so wanted to welcome this long lost sheep back into the fold. Why not bestow accolades upon this brother that has remained true to the covenant? Or has this brother remained true? Could it be that he represents the Scribes and Pharisees that are resentful that the long lost brother is better than he? Jesus was so daring to break bread with sinners. The “leaders” of the temple looked down with disdain upon Jesus for this. How dare He spend time with the low life people that one dare not associate with at this time.
    The brother (Scribes and Pharisees) was so indignant that he refused to attend the feast that the father was preparing. Rather than welcoming a lost soul, this brother criticized the scenario thinking that he was so much better that the lost ‘lamb’.
    How many times have I felt a feeling of “I am better than he/she”. Why are they getting the
    praises and I am not? Although this is such a small part of this parable, it spoke volumes to me.

  • Elaine Boone

    Christ’s parable of the Prodigal Son was addressed to the Pharisees, scribes and their followers. They had moved so far from the spirit of The Law to obsess over the letter of The Law, that they had no room in their hearts to reach out in love to the poor, the unclean, the sinner. As the prodigal son did, they renounced their sonship from a loving Father to live corrupt lives without love for God or neighbor. Christ tells these parables to Israel, attempting to draw them back to the Lord who loves and wants to save them from the wrong path. God the Farher is waiting with open arms to welcome them home.

  • Lori Bisser

    holy maceral! does anyone feel like we’ve reached dessert?

    • Fisher

      Yes – Were you ever, as a child, offered dessert despite the fact you did not clean your dinner plate? That happened to me once while visiting my grandmother. I did not like her dinner (I was a VERY picky eater), so I told her I was full. She was so sweet; she said there was strawberry shortcake and whipped cream for dessert if I wanted some. I knew, even at six years old, that I had essentially lied to her and my conscience was developed enough that I felt just WRONG accepting the dessert, exposing the lie and hurting her feelings. I felt unworthy and thought it best to punish myself for not finishing dinner. She knew all this; she loved me enough and spoiled me enough to offer even though I did not deserve dessert. I think Christ offers us dessert, knowing what wretched sinners we are, and though we feel unworthy, rightly so, we should accept it graciously. I bet my grandmother would have loved seeing me enjoy her strawberry shortcake, which she created as a gift, without conditional strings, for love of me.

      • Julie

        Thanks Lori, that was a wonderful story about your grandmother, great analogy to our loving and always forgiving Father.

  • Avila

    The story of the prodigal son, lost sheep and coin are part of my life. I am forever grateful that having wandered off, squandered the gifts of my baptism, turning my back on God and the Church, I did not even have to seek God. One day I received unexpected good news and although I was very firmly turned away from God, part of me rebelled and it felt like the Halleluiah chorus was being sung within me, I just hardly started to think, when it was as if a finger tapped the back of my head and a voice said “Here I am” and I instantly knew it was God.

    Shortly after, the need arose to go back to church, I never thought of the Evangelical church of my teens, walked past the Methodist, Baptist and Anglican churches and entered the Catholic Church of my childhood. I just turned up clueless at a time when the parish was heading into difficult times. With hindsight, God in His Wisdom, used this along with a couple of anchors to enable me to grow roots. One root was the attitude of the Parishioners (who actually remembered the woman they saw 30 years ago when she was 10 years old!). Unlike the older son, once I told them I turned away from God as a teen, they simply said “Well, you are here now” and “there must be great rejoicing in Heaven now you are back”. In turn, I will always be grateful that they not only kept the Church going, kept a welcome and pew warm for me. I also pray that I may do the same for other lost sheep.

    • Carla Archuleta

      Avila, I am glad you returned to your Christian faith and most important back to God. Welcome home! Good to know you are willing to help others in finding their way back too. Thank you!

      • ros sherman

        perhaps you had to ‘get lost’ in order to help others find their way back to God

    • Marianne

      Your story sound like mine. I too, drifted away from the Catholic Church once I turned 18. I also attended a different church as a teen. I returned to church when I was asked to be my nephew’s godmother. I went to the local church, but didn’t feel a connection. So I returned to the parish community of my childhood, and I have been going ever since (I once told my nephew that in a sense, his being born saved my life… because it brought me back to the church). That was twenty years ago.

  • mg

    When we think of those lost, including ourselves and those we know, and those that have come before, I can only help but think of Amazing Grace:

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind, but now I see.

    T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
    And Grace, my fears relieved.
    How precious did that Grace appear
    The hour I first believed.

    Through many dangers, toils and snares
    I have already come;
    ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
    and Grace will lead me home.

    The Lord has promised good to me.
    His word my hope secures.
    He will my shield and portion be,
    As long as life endures.

    Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease,
    I shall possess within the veil,
    A life of joy and peace.

    Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease;
    I shall profess, within the vail,
    A life of joy and peace.

    GRACE WILL LEAD ME AND ALL THE LOST HOME! HOW WONDERFUL!

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I love the story of the lost sheep (I love all the biblical references to sheep and shepherds) I grew up in sheep country many of my friends were the children of sheepmen. This is a true attitude of a sheepherder. Althouugh It is the job of the dog to keep the sheep together. If one does turn up missing the sheepherder would leave the flock in charge of the dogs and find the sheep. My mother has a painting of a sheep wagon with no one near it. One of the ladies who who took my handicapped brother to recreational activities noticed that picture. She said that is a picture of the Lost Sheep, Jesus is out looking for the lost sheep. She painted a ceramic cross to match the frame of the painting and gave it to mother
    The Prodigal Son has always been a puzzle to me. Why did the father not send a servant to the older son inviting him to the party. I believe this would have changed the whole meaning of the parable.?

    • Fisher

      The Father Himself calls us back, wants us each to know how much He loves us. He yearns for the prodigal, He yearns for the self-righteous, He yearns for all His lost sheep. As you say yourself in describing the shepherd and the dogs, the shepherd goes in search of the missing sheep. The dog may not have the impact or ability to bring the sheep back.

      • Avila

        I remember someone (I think it was Father Barron) saying that the father as head of the household would normally not lower his dignity to run to meet the prodigal son, nor would he lower himself to fetch the other son. In those days, the behaviour of the father was unusual. The father loved both sons so much that he put dignity aside and met them where they were. Had he sent a servant, he would have been telling his older son that he loved him less and would be forcing him to join a party, he was not ready to participate in. Hope this helps?

        • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

          Wow!! What an awesome view of what God the Father does for each of us, if we need Him to.

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        This is how I have often envisioned this scene Jesus is the shephearder, and the clergy are the dogs and we are the sheep. And definately yes the dogs as intelligent and well trained as they are they cannot bring the lost sheep back

    • Marianne

      Interesting that today’s Gospel reading was the story of the Prodigal Son…

      There has always been much debate about the untold end of the story, specifically regarding the brother. It is left to the imagination… did he refuse to come to the celebration, or did he end up going in the end? What about us? What do we do when we are in this situation?

      But I think the main message of this parable is about forgiveness… the father’s forgiveness of his lost child. Jesus is saying, we can all be forgiven. All we have to do is be remorseful, repent, and return (the 3 R’s). And God our Father is there, ready and waiting with open arms. How comforting to know! And likewise, we may be called upon to forgive someone. Will we celebrate their return?

  • Luz

    Man rejoices upon recovering any of our lost possessions, i.e. material possessions, such as a pet or sheep, money or wages. Does God rejoice about such things? No! Maybe he is happy for us, but not going to throw a party over it…. However, when we have a lost relative or son, not meaning the physical absence of a person, but the spiritual absence; doesn’t God rejoice each and every time we repent and come back to Him? A resounding – yes!

    How often did the Israelites sin? Time and time again they sinned, it’s almost as if they were testing God. Let’s see if he’ll forgive us yet again, they might’ve said! God is merciful, compassionate, and forgiving. He not only forgave them, but welcomed them back into His Kingdom. The door is available to everyone; it is for each individual to decide how we want to live our lives, and whether we want to be deserving, i.e. faithful, etc. to be able to walk through that door.

  • Carla Archuleta

    All three parable (Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son) really bring a strong message across to every one of us. Jesus sends a clear message to us. He says, ” I tell you in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over ONE sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

    I know there have been times I have been the lost sheep only to find Jesus’ waiting to tell me, “Welcome Back!” After that confession and warm welcome, I usually am driving back home in tears, trying to hold back the tears so I don ‘ t cause an accident on the way home. God is always with us. He loves us so much, I just have to keep remembering his love for us is amazing!

    I do work on really trying to help others who have lost hope and sight of Jesus. I share bits and pieces of when I was lost and how Jesus help me find May way back home. God grant us the wisdom, knowledge and open heart to follow you with open arms and to assist those in need of our help.

    As the prodigal son lived with his father and then ventured on his way with his share of inheritance I felt a sense of darkness. I got an image that Israel’s two sides were present. The dark side, is where the severe famine, swine and lack of food was where sin followed. Then where he was with his father was, for the most part serving God. Although, the son who stayed back to help with his father definitely was not in touch with putting God first. He was doing good deeds for human appreciation and not for God.

    • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

      When we are vulnerable to share our stories with others amazing things happen…in ourselves and in others…don’t you think, Carla?

      • Carla Archuleta

        Yes, I agree. It is almost like they are relieved that our human side is also one of sin too. Beverly, I so much appreciate your wisdom and understanding. You seem to be an amazing follower of God, I am fortunate in coming across your kind word and strong Christian faith. I hope I get there some time soon. God bless!

        • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

          I couldn’t agree with you more, Carla…thank you for your kind words…

  • Fisher

    God desires salvation for each and every person; He will go to great lengths to find/rescue us when are lost.

    PB4 offered good insight into the Prodigal Son and Israel from the divided nation standpoint. I offer a slightly different application, treating the nation as a whole. All twelve tribes had periods of exile – an outward, physical manifestation of an interior reality- they were slaves to sin, separated from their Father.So in this regard they could be depicted as the prodigal. But Jesus is speaking predominantly to the Jewish leadership here, who considered Israel to be God’s chosen, the eldest and heir. They frowned upon the notion of God forgiving and welcoming home/into the kingdom those they deemed prodigal – the unclean, the gentiles, the sinners.

    An excellent book giving beautiful treatment on every character of this parable us Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son. He offers the further thought that we are, at different times each of the characters of the parable, but ultomately called to be like the father in the story.

    • pnkyB4brain

      Fisher,
      Your alternate point of view is excellent! As Jesus said , “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and that they will heed my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 14:16 The flock that he knows is the 12 tribes of Israel and the other flock would encompass the rest of us. That seems to fall in line with your process of thought. Great alternative point of bring up.

      • Fisher

        Thanks. The parable of the Prodigal Son is my favorite; so much application! Jesus is truly the master teacher!

    • Ann Basile

      Yes, I see this in the same light. I’d also like to second Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son.

  • Fran

    That was beautifully put! Amen.

    • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

      🙂

  • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

    I, also, found God’s mercy in the readings for today…pnkyB4brain…I was moved to write this as a response to them:
    Sorrow
    I am not proud to say it, but I am a sinner…
    Unabashedly, unequivocally a sinner…
    Shamelessly, and completely have I sinned.
    From them, I confess I can not rescind…
    They totally have done me in.
    To my shame and sorrow,
    Jesus, I admit I have Thee offended.
    I need my heart entirely mended.
    Accept my sad and sorrowful heart.
    Accept my sad and sorrowful heart.

    O what graciousness do You employ!!
    You lead me from sadness into JOY!!
    —O aren’t you the sly ONE!!
    You have saved me by all you have done!!

    • pnkyB4brain

      Beverly, You have such a powerful way with the pen. What you said today and have penned other days has brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your gift.

      • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

        🙂

  • pnkyB4brain

    The underlying lesson to be learned in each of these parables is that Our God in merciful and welcomes true repentant sinners or lost souls back into His fold. Each story talks about something being lost and then being found by the owner. The convivial atmosphere of having found the
    lost item brought about a reason for a celebration. That is how God reacts when there is a lost soul that is found within our midst and repents his/her sins. I would think that each time we utilize the rite of reconciliation, there is a celebration of sorts in heaven.

    When Israel separated into two kingdoms under Solomon, Judah was like the dutiful son that stayed by his father’s side in the parable of the prodigal son. Israel, on the other hand, that consisted of 10 of the tribes of Israel wanted to test the waters, so to speak, of different cultures at that time. Israel absorbed other cultures with intermarriages and adapted other religions as their own. They grew complacent and didn’t follow Gods laws or commandments for quite a while. The kingdom of Judah strayed at times from God but always came back repentant for what they did when they turned their backs to God’s law and commandments.

    In the story, the younger son finally returned to his father after he spent his inheritance on frivolous items. He had nowhere else to go. Rather than the father being angry with his son, he called for a celebration to welcome home his lost son. Of course, the elder son, was unhappy with the father because he had labored and minded the farm constantly. There was no fanfare for him ever! Why then, should there be fanfare for the son that spent his fortune on useless items? Unfortunately, the elder son was so angry with his father’s reaction of his brother’s homecoming that he refused to attend the celebration. How often have we as humans used the “jealousy card” rather than being genuinely happy for another? May I let this parable sink into my mind and remind me that whenever I feel the “jealousy card” rear its ugly head in my daily duties as a Catholic and a Child of God.