Finding the Lost Sheep

Luke 15: 1-10
Phil. 3:3-8a / Ps 105

I tell you, in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons…
(Luke 15:10)

Be God’s instrument of conversion,
Bring a lost sheep back to His fold;
As Jesus showed in His mission,
In this task everyone is called.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10)

Reflection

It must have seemed at first that the criticism of the Pharisees and scribes who were scandalized by Jesus’ socializing with tax collectors and sinners, was justified by the first chapter of Psalms, which reads: “Blessed are those who do not keep company with sinners.” (Psa 1:1) But the psalm referred to those who tolerated or even enjoyed the sinful activities of bad company. To illustrate His true intention, our Lord related the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, and then followed them with the most beautiful parable of The Prodigal Son.

The message that our Lord wishes to impart is that conversion or deliverance always comes first as God’s initiative. Even without repentance on the part of sinners, His acceptance of their company could be the first step in the right direction for their transformation. The important thing was that He was seeking them out, because, as He said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mt.9:13)

Jesus asks us, “Who among you, having a hundred members in your community, and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine and seek out the errant member, and try to bring him back to active status?” As God’s shepherds, how much of His love and compassion have we received here in our community that we can be as passionate in keeping all our brothers and sisters in the fold as we are in inviting new members to our fellowships? How concerned are we when one of our brothers takes a fall (his car was spotted going to a motel, or he lost a bundle in the casino)? Do we find ways to get him into a one-on-one dialogue? Or are we instead relieved that he is no longer attending our fellowships and prayer assemblies?

Our Lord shows us in this parable that we must be willing to get our pristine-white clothes dirty in order to find a lost sheep or a lost coin. He Himself, the Creator of the universe, became a man to elevate us to His glory and kingship. Even in our sinfulness, in the name of love, because He is Love, He took a big gamble not only in becoming a man (vulnerable to temptation), but in offering us a place in His divinity, sinful though our nature may be.

Teach us, dear God, to imitate our Good Shepherd: to discard our prejudices and our feelings of righteousness, and to seek out brothers who have wandered away from our flock. After all, we are all sinners; we are all in need of repentance. Amen.

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