Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18:12-14)
Jesus always knew how to speak to the people in ways that they would understand. To the farmers, He told parables of working the fields or vineyards. To the fishermen, He told stories of vast catches. To the shepherds, He told animal stories. Because He spoke of what they knew, they were able to identify quite easily.
Today’s Gospel is one such story.
Any shepherd would have a reputation. When you hired someone to watch and guide your flocks, you would want someone who was known to be vigilant, so vigilant that your flocks would be safe from predators, theft, or any other loss. A shepherd who regularly came back with one or two less sheep would not be a shepherd for long. He would lose his responsibilities.
Thus, you could imagine the heads nodding up and down when Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep. “Of course!” the shepherds would think, “We would go after the lost sheep as well. After all, we have our reputation to think about.”
Jesus is saying that God is the pretty much the same. He has a reputation for mercy, for love, for forgiveness, for mercy. He has a reputation for “going the extra mile” to protect His people. He has a reputation for leading Israel through the desert in a pillar of fire. He has a reputation for feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness.
God’s got a rep. And He wants to keep it.
Because of that, Jesus let’s us know that He will go out and search for any of the sheep who are lost. Why? Because it is the will of His Father. In the Gospel of John, Jesus would tell the people, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”
This should bring us incredible joy and hope. Trust that the Lord will always be by your side and, when you feel lost or are struggling with despair, know that you are more keenly in His sights for He does not desire to lose you but to keep you with Him for all eternity.
FAITH ACTION: Pray, today, for the “lost sheep”: for those who have rejected God, for those who are straying, for those who no longer care about their faith. Pray that their hearts may be open to God finding them and returning them to His fold.