Matthew 18: 12-14
Isa 40:1-11 / Psa 96
Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones be lost.
To save us did He count the cost?
Or ask only what we have received?
To seek and lead those who are lost,
Give them hope in what they once believed.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)
Before our Lord gave this parable of ‘The Lost Sheep’, He was asked by His disciples, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Placing a child in their midst, Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:4). Jesus presented the child as representative of those who are weak and helpless, dependent on others, and humbled by their poverty and social insignificance. He was in fact directing attention to the poor as the “little ones” with whom He identified in His life.
Jesus was referring to the marginalized wallowing in poverty as much as to the sinners as the “lost sheep” in our society. In most cases, the poor are regarded as sinners because of their need, their lack of education and values formation. That is why God is more forgiving of their transgressions, and warns us never to “despise one of these little ones” when they come to us for help. The book of Proverbs is full of such admonitions: “Refuse no one the good when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, ‘Go and come again, tomorrow I will give,’ when you can give at once.” (Prov. 3:27-28). “He who oppresses the poor blasphemes his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy glorifies Him” (Prov. 14:31). “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard” (Prov.21:13). Our Lord Jesus Himself reminds us in the Gospel that “the poor will always be with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them” (Mark 14:7).
Our Lord chose His first apostles from poor, humble fishermen, who had little to offer in terms of resources, talents, abilities, or even moral support. All of His apostles were like innocent children who were totally dependent on Him for everything. Their dependence was all that He needed in order to form them into His greatest saints and leaders of His church.
Jesus was always seeking the “one that wanders off” — ostracized by the majority, like the demon-possessed, the lepers, the beggars, the paralytics and other handicapped persons, as well as the sinners, the tax collectors, and the gentiles. By healing them and forgiving their sins, He restored them back to the “ninety-nine” (the community).
Today’s Gospel teaches us to seek out our brothers and sisters, who, because of their poverty or perceived sinfulness have left our fold. Jesus teaches us that they are the ones we should give our attention and compassion to, if we are to humble ourselves like a child. They need to know that God loves them, and they can realize this if we show them we care.
Father God, our Savior Jesus has shown us that it is the weak and the helpless who are greatest in Your eyes because You always favor the humble and the little ones. Forgive us for feeling proud in our strength and self-sufficiency, for in all things we will always be dependent on Your power and provisions. Amen.