November 15 – Wednesday of the Twenty-sixth Week after Pentecost (9th of Luke) Luke 15:1-10
Repentance: Luke 15:1-10, especially vs. 10: “Likewise I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Christ our God invites us into His presence. How will we respond? Some people, like Matthew the apostle and evangelist, leave everything and follow Him (Mt 9:9). Others “turn back and walk with Him no more” (Jn 6:66). Among the big crowds accompanying the disciples, many never commit. Those who accept Christ’s invitation arrive at the kingdom only to find a sign posted at the entrance which reads, “Repent!”
Let us investigate, then, how repentance is connected with the Lord’s invitation, and with his search for the sheep “which was lost” (Lk 15:6). Perhaps we do not feel lost in this life, yet this is our true condition, nonetheless.
The Evangelist Luke begins with the observation that “all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him” (vs. 1) – they answer His invitation. May God grant us the grace to find ourselves among them! We all too easily draw near to Christ, hear what He says, and then go on about our business. We find many ways to deny the call of the Lord. Often, we simply choose to go along with other people in the crowd.
Sooner or later, however, we encounter the door with its message “Repent!” and see a crowd of sinners entering and falling down before the Lord. God helps us to understand that we really do belong with the tax collectors, scoundrels, and sinners. Furthermore, we discover that the Lord wants more from us than merely being sorry for our sins.
Good Shepherd that He is, the Lord Jesus comes into the wilderness we call life to do more than simply console us for our failures, small or large. According to the Apostle Paul, the Lord asks everyone who comes to Him to pass through the door of repentance – to go beyond the “worldly sorrow” of feeling badly about our actions. He asks us to repent – to struggle against our sinful attitudes and actions. He wants a true and godly repentance (see 2 Cor 7:10).
To discover what this means, we look to those whom the Lord our God restores to life. We find a hunger in the saints to become holy, pure, and free of sin, a state which goes far beyond feeling sorry for what was said or done.
The Lord Jesus’ search for us is patient and persistent, yet also tough and honest. He is the Good Shepherd who comes into the wilderness looking for His lost sheep “until He finds it” (Lk 15:4). When He finds that sheep “who repents” (vss. 7, 10), He carries it on His shoulders and rejoices (vs. 5). On His side of the story lies the joy, on our side true repentance and the honest effort to recover our humanity.
Yes, God is in the restoration business: He puts the sheep back into His fold, and the lost coins into His purse. What a tragedy it would be if we were to linger at the door of repentance without entering inside. A “broken and contrite heart” bleats like a lost sheep. The Shepherd hears those cries and runs to His loved ones. Those who “need no repentance” (vs. 7) miss the joy of being restored and healed – and also the subsequent celebration.
Concerning the Parable of the Lost Coin, Blessed Theophylact says: “You may understand the woman to signify the wisdom and power of God the Father, that is, His Son, who lost the one coin, man, from among the rational creatures created in the image of God, and who lights a lamp, His own flesh, to look for him. . . . The coin was found, bearing the image of the King, and there is joy for Him who found it” (Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, p. 193).
God truly rejoices at our return (vs. 9). At every Divine Liturgy, we share in His celebration.
O Thou who didst endure the Cross, and abolish death, and didst rise again from the dead; give peace to our life, O Lord: for Thou only art almighty. – Resurrection Verse, Saturday Vespers