8. Or what woman having ten pieces of silver; if she lose one piece, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it?
9. And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me, because I have found the piece of silver which I had lost.
10. So, I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
This parable directly follows the preceding one of which it is the counterpart. It is meant to serve the same end and to illustrate the same beautiful truth.
The example is taken from daily life. If a poor woman had ten coins in her possession and lost one of them, she would feel this loss, insignificant in itself, keenly and would do all in her power to find her piece of money. She would light her lamp – – for even in the daytime it is rather dark in a Palestinian peasant s cottage –and she would sweep out her dwelling and seek diligently until she found her treasure (vs. 8 et seq.).
The national customs in the East at the present day may serve perhaps to elucidate the example and to show how clearly it is a representation of an incident in real life. When a marriage takes place, part of the stipulated dowry is applied to the bride”s trousseau and the furnishing of her future home; she also keeps a portion of it in cash as a provision in case of need, and especially for the event of separation from her husband. Very often a row of these shining silver coins is worn in the woman s hair or round her neck as an ornament.
Whether such a custom existed in the time of our Lord is difficult to determine. But the fact of its existence would render the choice of the image still more intelligible. That the woman, on the other hand, had the custody of the money for household expenses is not likely, considering the position held by women in Oriental families (cf. Matt 13:52). If it were so, we should have to assume that she was a widow, in which case, however, she would probably have been designated as xypa-
The loss of one drachma out of the small sum often would not have been such a trivial matter for a woman whom we must suppose to belong to the poorer class. A drachma was, as we remarked before, about the same size and of the same value as the denarius and the half shekel.
The value of the lost object in this example is even more trifling than in the previous parable, but here more stress is laid on the trouble taken to find it. It would seem as if our Lord desired to accentuate this feature most particularly. He then describes the joy occasioned by the finding of the coin in similar terms to those in which He portrays the joy of the good shepherd at finding the lost sheep. The woman called together her friends in the neighborhood, or related to them, either individually or collectively, her sorrow and her joy.
Christ gives us an explanation of the parable exactly similar to that following the preceding example: “So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance” (v. 10).
Loving interest in sinners and concern for them is, therefore, quite in accord with the sentiments of the angels, and therefore to manifest such is pleasing to God; whilst the cold, heartless rejection of the sinner by the Pharisees is displeasing to Him.
In the anxiety and zeal with which the woman sought for the lost piece of money our Lord would show us the love and the mercy with which He goes after the sinner and seeks to convert him. The other details can scarcely come under consideration in our exposition of the image.
Besides the general applications to our Lord’s love for sinners, the parable affords much matter for sermons and for meditation. The diligent search for the lost object is applied in particular to the various means by which God seeks to convert the sinner, and by which all the disciples of Christ should manifest their anxiety for the salvation of their neighbor.
Many interpret the light as referring to Christ, the Light of the World, who has appeared for the salvation of sinners, and also to the Holy Ghost and His supernatural guidance; and again it is interpreted as faith and the Word of God; also as the natural light of reason.
The parable finds place in the liturgy together with that of the Lost Sheep on the third Sunday after Pentecost and therefore homiletic writers and preachers generally treat of both together.
In the Breviary, the image of the lost drachma is applied particularly to the holy penitent, St. Mary Magdalen. On her feast (22 July) in the hymn for Lauds the following verse occurs:
“Amissa drachma regio
Recondita est aerario :
Et gemma, deterso luto;
Nitore vincit sidera.”
“The coin, once lost, is now laid up
In the King s royal treasury;
The gem defiled, now purified,
Passes the stars in brilliancy.”