SAINT Ambrose (397) beautifully reflected on the images of a shepherd, a mother, and a father to connect the three parables we hear this Sunday: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son. He wrote:
“Who, then, is this father, this shepherd, this mother? Could they not, perhaps, represent God the Father, Christ, and the Church? Christ carries you on his shoulders, the Church seeks you out, and the Father receives you. One, because he is Shepherd, continues carrying you; another, as Mother, ceases not to search for you; and then the Father comes back to dress you. The first, as a work of mercy; the second, looking after you; and third, reconciling yourself to him. Each one of them matches these qualities perfectly well; the Redeemer came to save, the Church assists, and the Father reconciles.”
Such is the divine activity we experience in our lives as Christians. There are times when we feel like a lost sheep that Jesus carries tenderly on his shoulder. Then we experience the unconditional love of a God as a Father. And there are times when God through the Church acts as a mother who never gives up seeking for her long-lost children.
We hope that many more people would experience these loving and compassionate actions of God. He never gets tired of seeking us out, forgiving us, and receiving us back home to his heart despite the many times we leave him or forget about him. He’s looking out from the window hoping for our return, as the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son does.
The Church that Jesus Christ established acts then as a mother who always thinks of the spiritual care of her children. She hurts when her children do not practice their faith. She longs for their presence and hopes for their safety. In a secular world that presents so many false illusions of truth, happiness, and fulfillment, she hopes that her children would ultimately find the Way, the Truth, and the Life in Jesus Christ and through the Sacraments of the Church.
Let’s manifest and proclaim these attributes of God, especially to those who have stayed away from the Church. Let’s offer all our prayers to Mary, our Blessed Mother, for them and all people! Amen.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.