Joy In Heaven Over The Sinner Who Repents

Last night, as is typical for many retreats I’ve participated in or led, we had a Reconciliation Service, which included the opportunity to individually confess and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As I’ve written before, although I know this is a sacrament that has gone our of favor with many people, it is one I always find powerful.

The reading for the service was one of the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15 – the parable of the lost coin. As with the parable of the lost sheep that precedes it, Jesus tells a story that makes little sense from a practical standpoint. No shepherd having 100 sheep would leave 99 of them to search for the lost sheep. And it is equally unlikely that a woman would call all her neighbors to rejoice and celebrate with her after finding a single coin, even if she has searched high and low for it. (The celebration probably cost more than the value of the coin.)

But Jesus overemphasizes the joy of the finder in both parables to make a point about God’s reaction to our repentence: “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance….In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

That joy was the focus of Fr. John Schwantes’ reflection on the reading. And I think it is a good focus.

I feel great after hearing the words of absolution, and it is easy to keep the focus on how I feel, what the sacrament means to me. But there is something very powerful and, at the same time, touching about the reminder that this experience is something special for God also, a source of great joy for God.