Day 318: The Narrow Gate, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son

Luke 13:1-5 Many people at that time believed sickness, injury, and misfortune were connected to personal sins or the sins of one’s family. Although illness and death are consequences of Original Sin and thus affect all humanity, Christ dispelled the notion that the individuals who were so tragically killed had died because of their own sins. However, their untimely demise is a call to repentance since we do not know when our own lives will come to an end. (CCC 1502)

Ch 13:6-9 The Parable of the Fig Tree is about repentance and mercy. God, in his mercy, gives us ample opportunity to repent and bear fruit. However, if we persist in the refusal of his love, we will indeed perish by our own choice. (CCC 402, 1008, 1018)

Ch 13:10-17 The question of what activities were permissible on the Sabbath was a point of disagreement between Christ and his critics. (CCC 2173)

Ch 13:16 Whom Satan bound: Demonic influences can impact physical health, inflicting a person with a “spirit of infirmity” (Lk 13:11). Relieving someone from the effects of illness, infirmity, or, as in this case, possession is precisely within the spirit of observing the Sabbath. (CC 582)

Ch 13:18-21 Despite her humble beginnings and history of persecution, the Church founded by Christ, whose mission it is to build the Kingdom of God, will always endure, and no hardships or difficulties will prevail against her. (CCC 849, 857, 2660)

Ch 13:22-30 Christ invites everyone to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, salvation is no longer a birthright or privilege of the Chosen People alone. In spite of the long history of the Jewish people with the Scriptures and the prophets, many Gentiles who embraced the message of repentance wholeheartedly will enter the kingdom ahead of some of them. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the first ones to follow Christ were members of the Chosen People. (CCC 60, 72)

Ch 13:24 Narrow door: The path to salvation is open and the invitation is clear, but following Christ requires self-renunciation, a life of deep prayer, and an unconditional love for everyone. (CCC 853, 1034, 1344, 2656)

Ch 13:31-35 Christ was often critical of the Pharisees, but only to correct their blindness to humility and charity. In fact, he enjoyed good relations with some members of this group. En route to Jerusalem, he mourned the failure of its inhabitants to receive the prophets and embrace his message of salvation. He knew-although the crowds of pilgrims would initially grant him an enthusiastic reception-eventually the forces that sought his Death would have their way. (CCC 557, 575, 585)

Ch 14:1-6 The scribes and Pharisees tried to entrap Christ with an invitation to a Sabbath dinner that was attended by a man with dropsy, a form of edema. This disease was thought to be the result of sin, therefore, making the man ritually impure. Christ not only healed the man on the Sabbath but touched him as well, both of which were transgressions of the Sabbath in the eyes of the Pharisees. Christ’s “son and ox” argument shows it is permissible to do good works on the Sabbath even under the Jewish Law. (CCC 575, 582, 588)

Ch 14:7-14 Christ offered lessons in humility and charitable generosity, urging his listeners to seek neither honor nor reward. (CCC 2559)

Ch 14:15-24 The Parable of the Banquet repeats the theme of the universal call to salvation. When the Chosen People found excuses not to accept the invitation to the banquet, the host instead invited those who were disenfranchised-the sick, the poor, and anyone else he could find. Whereas some of the Jewish people rejected the invitation, the Gentiles came to fill their places. The parables is an allegory of the intense joy so characteristic of the Kingdom of God and the image of the wedding celebration points to the heavenly banquet celebrated by the angels and saints in Heaven. (CCC 1344, 1382, 2770)

Ch 14:25-35 Christ clearly instructed his listeners about the call to discipleship. We must devote ourselves to him without compromise and bear whatever trials or opposition may come. Christ is not calling on his disciples to “hate” their parents and families but rather to make him our first love. (CCC 1618)

Ch 14:33 Detachment from worldly things is a demand of every disciple of Christ, who must put God’s will and the pursuit of holiness above all else. (CCC 2544, 2556)

Ch 14:34 In addition to giving taste to food, salt is used as a preservative. However, when salt deteriorates, it loses its preservative qualities. Christ calls upon all the faithful to maintain a vibrant, living faith and virtues at all times so as to be the “salt of the earth.” (CCC 782)

Ch 15:1-32 This chapter goes to the heart of the Gospel itself: God’s limitless mercy and forgiveness as revealed through Christ. (CCC 1846-1848)

Ch 15:1-10 Sharing a meal was a sign of friendship and reconciliation; thus, to the Pharisees, Christ appeared to be accepting of sinners. He used this opportunity to show that his mission is to call sinners to repentance, for which there is more reason to rejoice than there is to over those who have never strayed from the faith. (CCC 1443, 589, 545)

Ch 15:3-10 Just as a shepherd gathers his scattered flock and seeks out those sheep who have been lost, Christ, the Good Shepherd, desires to call all his people together as one and to reconcile the wayward sinner back into the fold. As successors to the Apostles, the bishops-as well as the deacons and priests who assist them-are entrusted with the preeminent task of being good shepherds. However, every Christian is called to be a good shepherd to family members and friends, leading them always to Christ. (CCC 545)

Ch 15:11-32 In distancing himself from his father, the prodigal son felt initially the exuberance of misguided liberty. However, before long, he lost his dignity, his joy, and the meaning of his life. Yet, the father was eager to forgive his son at the first sign of his return and accepted him not as a slave but as a full member of the family. Upon encountering his son, the father was euphoric over the fact that his son had “come back to life.” This parable manifests God’s great mercy and forgiveness. (CCC 1436-1439, 2838-2839)

Ch 15:18-24 The return of the prodigal son mirrors that of a penitent in the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The son examined his conscience, had contrition for his sins, desired to make reparations, journeyed home, confessed his sins, and entrusted himself to his Father’s mercy. He was then absolved and joyfully welcomed back into the family. The robe, ring, and banquet symbolize the new life of the penitent who is reconciled with God and the Church. (CCC 1447-1449, 1482-1483, 1491-1492, 1699-1700)

Ch 15:18 I will arise...before you: Conversion is the first step in returning to the Father after being separated from him by sin; it is only by such conversion of heart that we can become reconciled to God. Conversion requires contrition or sorrow as well as purpose of amendment. Contrition, in turn, involves self-knowledge and honesty in recognition of personal sins. Contrition and purpose of amendment are required for a good Confession. (CCC 1422-1423, 2794-2795)

Ch 15:22-32 This parable provides an insight into why Christ associated with sinners. He was effectively inviting them to conversion and repentance so as to restore them to full membership in his family. It bears mentioning that the purpose of the Incarnation was to bring sinners to everlasting life. (CCC 589)

Ch 15:32 Your brother was dead, and is alive: The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a true spiritual resurrection, especially in the case of mortal sin, which deprives the sinner of sanctifying grace. (CCC 1468)

Ch 16:1-15 The unjust steward in this parable was lazy and dishonest, but when faced with termination, he settled many of his master’s accounts by negotiating a reduced balance with those who owed his master money. This impressed the master not because it compensated for the poor work his steward had previously done but because it showed a resourceful canniness toward provisional advantages shortly to be lost. Christ told this story to remind his disciples that their material advantages would likewise be taken away by earth, so they must use their earthly goods in the way most advantageous for their situation after death, that is, in the way that would lead to their salvation.

Steward: A high-ranking servant who managed an estate. Christians are called to be stewards of creation. (CCC 952)

Ch 16:9-15 While the lesson is about detachment from wealth, Christ also stressed urgency and readiness for the master’s call. We must place God, our own Master, above possessions.

Mammon: Aramaic for “wealth.” If riches become our first love, then we cannot give our hearts to God. (CCC 2113)

Ch 16:13 This verse applies today in the context of social justice. Businesses and governments must not place concerns for profit, productivity, and prosperity over the needs, dignity, and development of the human person. (CCC 2424)

Ch 16:15-18 The Gospel message of Christ supersedes the Law and prophets in the sense of perfecting them rather than nullifying them. Christ’s statement on marriage provides an example of this perfection of the Law. While the Mosaic Law tolerated divorce and remarriage in certain cases, the New Law of Christ restores God’s original intent spelled out in Genesis that marriage must be an exclusive, indissoluble, lifelong union. A valid and consummated marriage can end only with the death of one of the spouses. Marital fidelity is one of the special traces of the Sacrament of Matrimony. (CCC 2382)

Ch 16:19-31 The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich man is remarkable for its graphic imagery of the afterlife. (CCC 1859, 2463, 2831)

Ch 16:22 Abraham’s bosom: Those deceased who were faithful to the Old Covenant had yet to await their Redemption by Christ. These are the souls whom Christ visited after his Death in order to free them and bring them to eternal happiness in Heaven. This is the meaning of the term “hell” in the Apostles Creed when we say, “He descended into hell.” (CCC 631-632)

Ch 16:23 Hades: A Greek term used to translate the Hebrew word Sheol, indicating the palace of the dead, which was a state for both the righteous (cf. Lk 16:22) and the damned, who were separated by an impassable gulf. (CCC 633)

Proverbs 26:11 A dog that returns to his vomit: Conversion requires the total rejection of sin. Without a firm resolution to avoid future sin, a person is very likely to fall back into his or her former habits of sin. Peter quoted this proverb when he wrote of those who had converted to Christianity but were “again entangled in [their sins] and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Pt 2:20-22). (CCC 1490)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Table Fellowship

  • An amazingly controversial feature of Jesus’ ministry is his table fellowship with sinners and the outcast.

  • By eating meals with sinners and tax collectors, Jesus shows that he is preparing for a covenant feast to which everyone will be welcome, and this deeply angers the Pharisees.

  • Luke describes one such encounter when “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]” and the Pharisees and scribes incredulously responded, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:1-2).

  • In response to this criticism, Jesus tells a story of a man and his two sons.

  • The younger son sells his inherited family land and leaves home, thinking that freedom from the father will bring him happiness, illustrating the nature of sin, which is a failure to trust in the Father and a misconception that we can reach fulfillment without him.

  • The son goes to a “far country,” in essence, leaving the Promised Land in self-inflicted exile to go into the world of the pagan nations, where he squanders his inheritance on loose living, resulting in poverty and isolation.

  • Jesus is retelling the story of Israel, who squandered her gifts, the law and the Temple, and rejected her true husband, the Lord, ending up in exile, destitute and isolated.

  • This is where all sin ultimately leads us.

  • The younger son comes to his senses, and, as he approaches home, his father runs to him and embraces him and restores his place of sonship, placing a robe upon him and clothing him in dignity.

  • The father calls everyone to celebrate a great feast, proclaiming with joy, “My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:24).

  • But there is one person who is not as thankful for the younger brother’s return: the elder brother.

  • The elder brother refuses to go into the feast, jealous of the celebration given by his father for the sinful younger son.

  • The father urges his elder son to celebrate the return of his brother, saying, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:31-32).

  • Jesus, in eating with sinners and tax collectors, is acting like the father in the parable.

  • He is taking in the lost and celebrating their return.

  • The tax collectors, sinners, and even Gentiles are coming back to the Father after a long period of disobedience, exile, and isolation.

  • Just as the elder brother refuses to celebrate the return of his younger brother and tries to exclude him from the family, so also the Pharisees want to keep others out of the kingdom.

  • Jesus ends the story of the Prodigal Son abruptly, neglecting to tell us whether or not the elder brother attends the feast to celebrate the return of his brother.

  • Just as the story is open-ended, Jesus is extending an open invitation to the Pharisees and the scribes to come in and to celebrate the return of their lost brothers and sisters with the Father.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • Shall we start with the Proverb?

  • Proverb 26:11, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

  • St. Peter quotes this later on in the New Testament


  • So many of us find ourselves going back to the same things OVER AND OVER AGAIN

  • Even though we know this is not where happiness is found

  • Sometimes in our folly, in our foolishness, in our going back to the same sin over and over again, we can sometimes feel ALONE

  • We can feel like we are the only stupid one

  • You are NOT the only stupid one

  • We are ALL the stupid one

  • Or as the Book of Proverbs would say, we are FOOLISH ONES

  • What’s the definition of insanity?

  • Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

  • So we say, “Ok Lord help me not to return to this folly.”

  • We want to highlight three things from today’s Gospel


  • In Luke Ch 13 Jesus asks this question, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?”

  • They were killed by Pontius Pilate

  • Then Pilate put their blood mingled with the pagan sacrifices

  • Luke 13:4, “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?”

  • Must have been a very popular event of the moment that Jesus is referring to

  • Remember our friend Job from the very beginning of this podcast?

  • Job’s friends had the illusion of saying, “NO, if you are good then good things happen to you. If you are bad then bad things happen to you. So if you have bad things happening to you must be bad. You must have done something wrong.”

  • Jesus is cutting through that

  • Even though the people who are around Jesus know the Book of Job

  • They know that while God blesses those who are righteous and there are curses upon those who are not righteous

  • At the same time, the ratio is not 1:1

  • It is NOT if I have done well then I will be blessed IN EVERY WAY I WANT TO BE and if I have done evil then I will be cursed in ALL THE WAYS YOU THINK I SHOULD BE

  • BUT...


  • AND YET…

  • Here is the common temptation among human beings to think, “Well did they do something wrong?”

  • Do bad things happen to good people or do only bad things happen to bad people

  • The reality is bad things happen to ALL OF US

  • We all find ourselves in this place

  • We all find ourselves in the place of life

  • We live in a broken world

  • Where towers fall

  • Where evil people do evil things

  • We can get caught up in those things as well

  • AND YET…

  • Jesus points this out

  • Not only do bad things happen to EVERYBODY

  • But just keep in mind, REPENT OR YOU WILL LIKEWISE PERISH

  • That goes on to the next thing The Narrow Door in Luke Ch 13

  • Someone asks him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

  • That’s a good question

  • We want EVERYONE to be saved

  • Jesus makes a point. “Strive to enter by the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

  • We have to realize this HARD TRUTH

  • We don’t like the idea that anyone would be lost to God forever

  • AND YET…

  • Jesus makes it VERY VERY CLEAR that this is a REAL POSSIBILITY

  • Not even a distant possibility

  • Jesus says, “This is the narrow gate.”

  • And later on in another Gospel he says, “The road is wide that leads to destruction and many are on it. But the road to Eternal Life with God is narrow.”

  • It goes on to say, “There are people who will say, ‘Lord open the door to us.’”

  • Matthew’s Gospel says, “Many will say, ‘Lord! Lord!’ And I will not know you. I will only know those who do the will of my Father.”

  • So that is why we keep going back to this TRUTH that a SAINT or a PERSON IN HEAVEN is the kind of person who says YES to God and never STOPS saying yes to God



  • The reality of Hell can be something that deters people from striving for Heaven

  • It’s not even the fact that we could CHOOSE Hell

  • It’s not even the fact that we could LOSE Heaven

  • BUT…

  • It’s the idea that other people might not choose Heaven

  • It’s the idea that other people might choose Hell

  • This distracts us and gets us off our track

  • So what does Jesus say when someone asks, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

  • Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter by the narrow door…”

  • IN FACT…

  • It’s not just STRIVE

  • The Greek imperative is YOU STRIVE

  • So will many be saved or will few be saved?




  • Yes, while we love everyone

  • We want everyone to know the love of God and Jesus Christ and be saved through the Church that God has given to us

  • AND YET…

  • We can’t allow the reality that others will not choose to be saved to deter us

  • So Jesus says, “YOU STRIVE!”


  • At the same time, God races after us

  • Not only are we called to strive

  • BUT…


  • In Luke Ch 15 tax collectors and sinners are drawing near to Jesus

  • The Pharisees are complaining

  • So Jesus told them three parables

  • The Parable of the Lost Sheep

  • The Parable of the Lost Coin

  • The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

  • It’s not the just the Parable of the Prodigal Son

  • It’s ALSO about the brother and the Father

  • So in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus asked them, “Which one of you having 100 sheep losing one would not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one?”

  • We all know the answer because we’ve heard this before

  • Yeah the actual answer to those hearing Jesus would be

  • Nobody would do that

  • None of us would do that

  • No shepherd would do that

  • Why?

  • Because that is ridiculous, to leave potentially 99 sheep in the wilderness killed, lost, threatened, to seek after one stupid sheep that could not stick with the rest of the flock

  • AND YET...

  • Jesus says, “No, but I will do that. I will go after it. I will go after that sheep. And when I find it, I won’t beat it up or drag it home. When I find it I will rejoice. I will lay it on my shoulders and carry it home.”

  • Think of that foolish sheep that should be walking home and here is Jesus who puts it on his shoulders and carries it home

  • Not angrily


  • Luke 15:6, “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’”


  • IN FACT…

  • That is the POINT that Jesus is saying

  • Jesus says, “You are RELENTLESSLY pursued and you are RIDICULOUSLY celebrated.”

  • Not only does he celebrate a lost sheep that was found

  • But in the next parable about the woman with ten coins who lost one

  • When she finds the one she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, “Rejoice with me for I have found the coins which I had lost.”

  • How many times have you ever found something and said, “You guys, rejoice with me!”

  • “Oh I was dumb. I can’t believe I lost this thing.”

  • “Finally I found my keys.”

  • The point is we don’t call together people to rejoice over something that was lost and then found


  • BUT…

  • What Jesus is revealing is that HE DOES

  • What Jesus is revealing is that THE FATHER DOES




  • “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before and angels of God for one sinner who repents.”

  • When you go to Confession it can sometimes feel like a place of embarrassment

  • You might even experience it like a place of shame

  • IT IS NOT!!



  • Every time a person goes to Confession, every angel God has ever made, every saint who has ever lived has YOUR name on their lips PRAISING GOD






  • This is the INCREDIBLE THING to the glory of the Father



  • The third story is the Parable of the Prodigal and his Brother

  • This one completely wrecks Fr. Mike

  • We have this son who not only wants his inheritance, but he leaves

  • This is even more telling

  • When the younger son leaves what he is saying is, “I don’t want to be affiliated with you. I don’t want to be associated with your family. I want out. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

  • It’s one thing to ask for the inheritance

  • It’s another thing to take that inheritance and leave

  • He goes off, squanders the money, and loses everything

  • He comes home

  • Why?

  • Not because he feels badly

  • Not because he realizes he was wrong

  • He comes home because he was STARVING

  • This is the HUMILITY OF GOD

  • We can go back to Confession

  • Why?

  • Because I don't’ want to go to Hell

  • We can come back to the Lord

  • Why?

  • Because I need help

  • And He does the same to us what He does to the younger son

  • Seeing him at a distance, he RAN to him and EMBRACED him

  • And another translation says, “He fell upon his neck and kissed him.”

  • This son is disgusting

  • AND YET…

  • The Father gives him four things

  • The BEST robe

  • A Ring on his finger

  • Shoes on his feet

  • Kill the fatted calf (and have a BBQ!!! 😁)


  • Stephanie Parks works for Focus and she and Fr. Mike created a retreat called The Prodigal Son Retreat

  • They highlight these four things

  • What does it mean that the Father gives him the BEST robe

  • You know in the ancient world, there is not a closet FULL of clothes

  • You have a couple of robes in your life

  • You have ONE best robe

  • You don’t have a bunch of best robes

  • But the Father says to his son who has been a disappointment, a failure, and not a good son, “Give him the BEST robe.”



  • He is giving him the GLORY OF THE FATHER

  • The second thing was the ring which would be like a signet ring to symbolize the Father’s authority

  • So not only is He clothing the son in the Father’s glory, he is putting on his hand the sign of the Father’s authority

  • He is fully restoring him to SONSHIP

  • Thirdly, he put shoes on his feet

  • Why?


  • He can leave if he wants to again

  • Then finally kill the fatted calf

  • There are not a lot of fatted calves lying around (unless you live in Kobe Prefecture in Japan mmmmmmm 😉)

  • You get one

  • Not only the BEST ROBE where he is clothed in the Father’s glory

  • He has the Ring so he has the Father’s authority

  • He has shoes so he is free to leave if he wants to again

  • And the fatted calf is killed because he is RELENTLESSLY PURSUED and RIDICULOUSLY CELEBRATED

  • That brings us to the OLDER SON

  • The older son hears the rejoicing and he is angry and resentful

  • Why?

  • Because the younger son did not want to be associated with the Father so he left

  • The older son, it turns out, didn’t want to be associated with the Father BUT HE STAYED

  • Luke 15:29-30, “Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!”

  • Realize what that means

  • The older son did not run away

  • But he is living separated from his Father

  • This is the way a lot of us live right now

  • We can see ourselves in the story of the YOUNGER son

  • BUT…

  • This is definitely OUR story

  • The story of the OLDER son

  • We say, “Ok gosh man. God wants me to do all these checklists. He has all these tasks for me. God has all these things I need to do, I need to get done, I need to jump through all these hoops just to please the Father and he doesn’t actually care about me.”

  • Now the older son is doing what the Father asked him

  • BUT…

  • He is not living IN RELATIONSHIP with the Father

  • You can imagine he comes downstairs every morning and he just sees on the table a to-do list

  • But the problem is he waited until the Father went out into field and came down

  • So the dad HAD to leave the checklist

  • The older son doesn’t WANT to be in relationship with the Father

  • We know that because, “You didn’t even give me a kid to feast on with my friends.”

  • He’s not grieved because his father didn’t feast WITH HIM

  • He didn’t want to feast WITH his Father

  • He wanted to feast APART FROM his Father

  • He wanted to feast AWAY FROM his Father

  • He wanted to feast WITH HIS FRIENDS


  • Could you imagine the grief in his father’s eyes where, “Yes you’re finally telling me the truth. You’re finally telling me what’s even in your heart.”

  • Luke 15:31, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

  • This is the truth that we need to know too

  • Those of us who are striving after the Lord and we find ourselves sometimes just broken down or burdened by the fact that it’s just one thing after the other

  • The Father says, “Listen, it’s not meant to be just one thing after another. I want to live in relationship with you. Yes there is stuff to get done. You are working in the Kingdom of God so there is work that has to get done. We got to go out into the field we got to get stuff done today.”

  • BUT…

  • Imagine differently…

  • Rather than waiting for the Father to leave so he just leaves you a task list

  • What would it look like if you came down in the morning and the Father made breakfast, poured a cup of tea and you sat down at the table and just talked?

  • “What do we need to do today? What do we need to get done today, Dad?”

  • This thing

  • That thing

  • Whatever Fr. Mike is saying

  • And you plan your day with him

  • And then you’re not a servant anymore

  • You're not a slave




  • Yes, it is HARD WORK

  • The Kingdom of God NEEDS TO BE BUILT UP

  • There are people who don’t know Jesus and they NEED TO KNOW HIM

  • There are people who DO know Jesus and they NEED TO BE HELPED

  • So there is work to be done

  • BUT…

  • To do it WITH the Father and not APART from the Father IS THE KEY

  • The truth of the matter is you are RELENTLESSLY PURSUED and you are RIDICULOUSLY CELEBRATED by the Father





Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. Thank you so much for your Word, your Word made flesh. But also your Word spoken to us in these parables, your Word spoken to us in teaching us that we are called to strive after you, that we are called to belong to you. Also that you love us and rejoice over us. Lord God, help us both to strive after you and to receive the joy, to enter into the joy, that you have for us and that you cry out over us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”