A True Shepherd’s Love

Luke 15: 3-7
Ez 34: 11-16 / Ps 23 / Rom 5:5b-11

…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
(Luke 15:7)

We are the flock You have gathered,
To be like shepherds you have called;
We follow You, our Good Shepherd
To bring some lost sheep to Your fold.

To the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus addressed this parable: “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? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15: 3-7)

Reflection

At first it may seem strange to imagine a shepherd leaving his ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness just to save one stray sheep. But Jesus here is not concerned with numbers (there is, after all, safety in numbers), but in demonstrating in this parable the boundless love of a Father Who will never allow one single soul to be lost if He can help it. “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost” (Mt.18:14). Or as the prophet Ezekiel put it (in the first reading): “As I live, says the Lord, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live” (Ezek 33:11). In His great love for man, God practiced what He preached. He came to earth to seek the lost, and He demonstrated this in the life of Jesus: healing the lepers and all those “sinners” stricken with various diseases. He called the hated tax collectors and even ate with them. He forgave the adulterous women, and even allowed one to wash His feet, in a Pharisees’ house, no less! Why, He even consorted with Samaritans, whom the Jews considered a lost race. But it is exactly these scattered sheep of Israel that the Savior had come to save!

Why did our Lord use the sheep in His parable? Because among all the animals raised by man, the sheep must be the most defenseless and the most senseless creature. It has no means of defending itself against predators, and does not even have the sense to find its way back to the fold or pen when it gets lost. It is totally dependent on the shepherd. Hard as it may be for the proud among us to accept, we are so much like sheep. And not a few of us are easily lost in the maze of this world’s high-tech materialism. But it is precisely because of our weakness and total dependence on God that we enjoy His protection and providence. God knows the sorry predicament that we are up against in this world full of all kinds of predators. This was the main reason why He had to take the initiative to lead us, protect us and seek out the lost among us. He said, “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal…” (Ezek 34:15-16)

We are the sheep of His pasture. God had already gone to great lengths, losing His only Son (for a time) to seek and save us, the lost. We should only be so grateful that we have a God Who loves us so perfectly. Shouldn’t we at least try to reciprocate His love by bringing other “lost sheep” to His assembly? Just look around you. There are so many of them, wandering about, separated from the flock, waiting for their Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We are all called to be shepherds; experience a taste of heaven, bring a lost sheep back to the fold.

Eternal Father, You have shown us how much You love even the worst sinner among men. We commit ourselves to be men for others so that we may share in this mission of saving lost souls for the sake of Your kingdom. Use us as You see fit in bringing back the “lost sheep” to the right path, the Way of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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