The Lost Sheep
“What man among you with a hundred sheep losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it?” The correct answer to that question of Jesus in today’s gospel passage is “no man!” No man in his right mind would be careless enough to leave ninety nine sheep that are safe in the wilderness to go in search of a single one that was stupid enough to get lost. I mean, it is simply not the practical thing to do. What if, while he Is going after only one sheep, ten, twenty, maybe fifty more going missing? So, no practical man would leave ninety nine sheep in the wilderness and go in search of only one lost sheep. Only God would do such a thing!
Jesus told the parable of the Lost Sheep to show the inestimable value of a single soul in the sight of God. In the sight of God every human soul is valuable, none is disposable. As a matter of fact, every human soul is so valuable that God is prepared, so to say, to risk everything to save it.
The Pharisees, the “good” people, had been complaining that Jesus was keeping the company of tax collectors and sundry other sinners and dirthy people they would never associate with. They were obviously operating under the principle of the adage that says, “Show me your friends, and I will tell you whom you are.” If Jesus continued to associate with sinners and bad people, pretty soon he would become bad, the bad people would contaminate him with their badness.
Jesus then told the parable of the “Lost Sheep” to show that even the soul of sinners were valuable in the sight of God. And God would stop at nothing to bring them to repentance and salvation. That was exactly what Jesus was doing. He was doing everything to bring the tax collectors and sinners to repentance and salvation. That included keeping their company. In order to bring the sinners to repentance, Jesus chose to go down to them in the valley of their sinfulness, and bring them up with him to salvation. He did not stand on some holy mountain and yell at them to come up to him and be saved.
At the Body of Christ, the incarnation of Christ in every age and in every place, the Church has the duty to carry on his mission on earth until the end of time. That mission includes going in search of sinners to bring them to repentance and salvation. That explains why the Church expends a great deal of effort and resources in the ministry of reconciliation of sinners. Like God, like Jesus the Church will stop at nothing to save a single soul that has gone astray. The Church never writes of anyone, not even the worst of sinners. And whenever the Church succeeds in bringing a sinner back to repentance, her Joy knows no bounds, precisely as Jesus said: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need for repentance.”
Make no mistake about it, there are always the modern-day Pharisees in the church, who specialise in stigmatising sinners— real or imagined— and consigning them to hell fire. They will criticise anyone in the church, particularly the pastors of the church, whom they perceive to be associating with sinners for whatever reason. But thanks be to God, God is not them!
Thank God for all good gifs around us which are sent from Heaven above.