Father John MerzMar 27, 2022
To find out more about Father John Merz visit ascensionbrooklyn.org and northbrooklynangels.org
This is a special interview, part four in a seven-part series on Lent. Some of our discussion explores the reading for the third Sunday in Lent. I've included the reading below (NRSV) along with some questions to help you reflect on the meaning of the reading, Lent, and what it means to be a contemplative.
March 27th — Fourth Sunday in Lent
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
15 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Questions for consideration:
Before you begin to reflect with the community today, let’s situate ourselves within the reading.
- Read the passage, read the questions below, then read the passage again.
- Sit for a few minutes and allow yourself to enter into the scripture.
- If you are not familiar with some of this information, don’t worry just rest in what you do understand. Think about who plays the role of "sinners" and who plays the role of the "righteous" (the Pharisees) in the parables.
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost
- What does it mean to be lost in the wilderness? Who are these people to you? What does it mean to go after them?
...what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
- What is the symbolism of a "coin"? Why would she invite friends over to celebrate a found "coin"?
the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.
- What do you suppose the father is going through? What about the elder brother?
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
- What does the father want the elder brother to know? What might he want to say to the younger son?
Going a little deeper:
- Who have you known over the years that resemble the younger son and why? Resemble the elder son? Resemble the father?
- Where have you known any of these stories as your story? How do you experience these stories at this stage of your life? How do you imagine you experienced them when you were younger?
- What are you in the process of losing and finding today?
- These three parables share a similar theme of losing and finding, but each of them nuances a different side of losing and finding (the sheep got itself lost and is rescued by a shepherd, the coin was misplaced but found hard work, the son loses himself then finds himself...and is welcomed home). Read all together, what do you think the theme is?