A relationship of mercy and forgivenessBy Fr. Tito Caluag
Philippine Daily Inquirer
This Sunday’s Gospel has Christ addressing the Pharisees and scribes about the two parables on forgiveness—The Parable of the Lost Sheep and The Parable of the Lost Coin.
These are the first two in a trilogy of parables on the relationship of mercy and forgiveness between the sinner and God; the third and last is The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Let us focus on the relationship of mercy and forgiveness. Note that this is an active act, not a passive one. The shepherd and the woman actively seek the lost sheep and lost coin, respectively.
Even in The Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father takes the initiative to meet his prodigal son while he’s a long way off and goes out to reason with his elder son.
Let us reframe our reflections. Do we actively seek out those who are “lost” to bring ourselves and them into a relationship of mercy and forgiveness?
First, reframe “lost.” We normally associate this with the sinner, the wayward, which is fine. But I would like to propose something else.
It is often said that a system or organization is as strong as its weakest link. Thus, attention must be given to the weakest in the system. The lost sheep and the lost coin are the weakest links? Maybe this is why the shepherd leaves the 99 to find this one weak link? Maybe this is why the woman turns the house upside down to find the lost coin, the weak link?
The boy who cried
One of my neighbors shared this story. Last week, his grandson, who is in grade school, had lunch with him after classes. One of his classmates, the boy said, celebrated her birthday in class that day; another classmate cried because he did not like the toy car that was in his loot bag.
The grandson narrated how he told his crying classmate, “It’s okay. We should always be thankful for whatever we receive.”
His grandfather then asked, “Did he stop crying?” The grandson replied, “No.”
There was a pause, then the boy continued, “So I exchanged with him my car. Then he was happy already.”
The way his grandson told his story, my neighbor noted, it was evident that it was not about him but about the little boy who cried.
Working with the poor
Over a week ago, I attended a meeting of some groups that are active in the protest movement against the pork barrel. One of the attendees said that their group had suffered the most in our society. Then another attendee politely said, “I beg to disagree. It is the poor in our society who have suffered and continue to suffer the most.”
To this another attendee added, “Yes! And we must also work with them and not for them as if we are their saviors.”
It is interesting that these two diverse stories in equally—if not greater—diverse contexts talk about concern for the weakest links: the little boy crying and the poor who suffer the most from corruption.
In their own way, the grandson of my neighbor and one of the attendees in the meeting actively sought out the “lost.” The young boy felt for his classmate and gave up his own toy car to heal the “pain” of the other. The attendee, a woman, felt deeply for the poor to stand up for them and to acknowledge what might be, for many of us, “an honest mistake” of thinking we work for the poor.
Christ’s invitation is for us to actively seek God’s mercy and forgiveness and to seek the “lost.”
As I write this, I watch the news of alternating reports on the Luneta gathering against the pork barrel and the fighting in Zamboanga.
I wonder if there is a new set of Pharisees and scribes in different times and situations. I wonder if there are lost sheep and lost coins in every generation.
Perhaps the little boy, my neighbor’s grandson, is Christ’s invitation reissued as a reminder to be sensitive to “the cry of the poor.” The little boy, like the woman in the meeting, is a good reminder that the story is not about us, but about those in need, those we need to be in solidarity with.
Some would cynically say, “After over 2,000 years nothing much has changed.” Yet one can also say, “The invitation of Christ and the grace and inspiration it promises to those who will respond remains available to us.”
The Gospel for today is a reminder that Christ calls us to be one community, whole and no one should be “lost.” It reminds us that the way to this community is the way of compassion and care, mercy and forgiveness.
Invitations are meant to be responded to: yes or no. To ignore the invitation is to lose by default, tantamount to a “no.” Those who procrastinate also end up losing by default. Until we say “yes,” Christ will continue to issue the invitation. Those who accept become the invitation to others.