Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus’ first parable in today’s Gospel is heartfelt, offering us hope of God’s compassion for the wayward. Jesus offers a “moral” to the parable in explaining that “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
Although Jesus’ “moral” seems straightforward enough, there is something about it that seems paradoxical. Wouldn’t it make sense for the “righteous” to rank higher in Heaven than the repentant? Why isn’t there such rejoicing in Heaven over the righteous? There are at least two responses that might be offered.
First, the “righteous” of whom Jesus is here speaking are defined by the righteous themselves. Yet such self-righteousness is a false righteousness. Only God can make a human person righteous.
Second, those who are righteous in the true sense of the word are so only through their repentance. A saint is a sinner who knows he’s a sinner. In this sense, all human beings in Heaven (excepting, of course, Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother) are righteous through their self-repentance. You and I as sinners rejoice that the Lord has not left us in our sins, but has offered us His grace, which is the means to righteousness in God’s sight.