Today's Gospel parable has always given me trouble. This parable about the lost sheep makes no sense to me, humanly speaking. Jesus asks this question to the Pharisees and scribes who were complaining about Him eating and hanging out with sinners - "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?"
I want to scream out the answer, as if from the back row of the crowd of people. "Not me, not anyone here. That makes no sense to leave the rest of your sheep defenseless out in the desert while searching for one that had not the sense to stick with the group. It makes no sense to chase after that one sheep while risking the loss of more to wild animals in the desert! Furthermore, having a party, if in fact you do find that one silly lamb, seems a bit much."
This answer, I realize, is the answer of a fallen man who places value more upon things than upon people. This is an answer that shows the difference between man's way of thinking and God's way of thinking. Man sees the risk involved, calculates the potential gain and / or loss, and decides to take a small loss rather than risking a larger one. God sees each lamb equally and loves each equally. It would be unthinkable for Him to leave even one behind. My paradigm would change if I simply replaced the word "sheep" in the Gospel with the word "children".
"What man among you having a hundred [children] and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?"
We are expecting our 8th child any day now so we are nowhere near 100. However, as a father, I can certainly see and think as God does. I too would do all that I could to bring that one child back.
God loves you and me with this unbelievable love. He risks everything for each one of us, lost as we are. He knows that as He searches for us there is the possibility that it may be too late - the wild beasts may have found us first - but He searches anyway.
What if we replaced the word "sheep" with friends? Most of us would do what we could to search and rescue. How about relatives? I know, it depends on which ones, but seriously, we'd go after them too. Co-workers? Sure. Neighbors or fellow parishioners? Probably. How about strangers or even enemies? Maybe, not sure?
In our fallen nature we may be temtped to say, "they chose that path" or "I'll pray for them to return" or "they're good people, they'll come back eventually" but God wants us to imitate Him. He wants us to leave what we know, leave our comfort zone, and reach out to help those lost sheep return. Remember, they are not just people we don't know or like, they are our brothers and sisters. They are God's children and he wants our help finding them and helping them find him. When they do, it is just like the parable, it is surely time to party.
Let's search after the lost sheep in our lives and if we are lost, let's meet the Good Shepherd as He is searching for us. Let's not hide from Him. That would be baaaaaaaaaaaaaad. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)
If you want to flee from God, flee to Him instead. Flee to Him by confessing to Him; don't flee from Him by trying to hide. For you can't hide, but you can confess. . . . In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide myself from myself, not myself from You. - St. Augustine
Going DeeperAs we head into the Advent & Christmas season, many of us will be seeing friends and relatives that are lost. You and I (and God) want so much for these beloved friends to experience the Mercy of God but we're not sure how to help that process along. There is a right way and a wrong way to mount a search and rescue effort. In his wonderful book, Search and Rescue: How to bring your family and friends into-or back into- the Catholic Church*, Patrick Madrid shows us how to do just that using effective, tested methods of winning souls for Christ.
*(This is an affiliate link which means I may receive a financial benefit if you were to purchase this item. I only recommend items that my family has personally used and owned.)