Revelations from the Word

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There will be joy in heaven

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"So He spoke this parable to them, saying: What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:3-7).

The parable of the two sons shows the love of God the Father and manifests His grace towards the sinner who repents. The older son who, as far as he was concerned, was righteous because he had never disobeyed his father’s orders (Luke 15:29), did not understand that this was God’s grace and divine forgiveness. If it had depended upon him, he would never have forgiven his younger brother for having squandered his possessions and eaten with prostitutes (Luke 15:30). This is why he was angry [orgizo] when he discovered that his father had thrown a party to celebrate the return of his lost son (Luke 15:28). The Greek verb orgizo indicates a violent anger capable of murder. From his behavior (observing the Torah as the Law), the older son (the Pharisees) had the attitude of a slave and not of a free man in his father’s house (John 8:31-34). And when Jesus tried to make the Pharisees understand this, they threw stones at him (John 8:59).

These three parables show:

  • that there is a party in heaven and on earth each time a person who was lost repents and receives God’s grace,

  • that there is anger with those who believe themselves to be just and who do not receive God’s grace, to the point of becoming murderers.

We have the example of Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin, irreproachable with regard to the Torah, who persecuted the Church (Philippians 3:5-6), believing that he was doing the will of God until he himself was touched by God’s grace. However, not all Pharisees were touched by this grace as was Saul of Tarsus, and many acted like the older son in the parable. When the father spoke to the older son, he no longer called him 'son' [huios], but 'child' [teknon], as if to disinherit him. This is also how Jesus spoke expressly to the Pharisees in the parable of the tenants, "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Matthew 21:43).