November 5, 2015
“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 15:7
I have always loved today's gospel reading that includes the parable of the lost sheep. I started to love it more when a family friend told us about his own frantic searches when he would watch his dad’s sheep. (Side note: this guy is the youngest of 13 children raised in Communist Romania in a town that’s 100% Catholic. He always brings back tomato seeds to plant in his garden and a few bottles of his family’s homemade brandy to kill germs and sadness). He was talking about the panic he would feel if he couldn’t find a sheep because his dad would kill him if he lost one. He’s a priest now, and you can tell in his ministry that he knows what it means to be a shepherd, ever living like the young boy who really doesn’t want to lose one of his dad’s precious lambs.
I imagine that Jesus pursues us in much this same way. He was sent by his own Father to bring his people back to Him, and he never wants to let one get away. He comes out to meet us in all the weird places where we sheep get stuck, helplessly behhhh-ing into the dark. How do we respond when we see that He has come for us? Do we let Him scoop us up and bring us home? Or do we pretend He's not there and resort to our own devices? When Jesus talks about the “righteous people who have no need of repentance,” he’s not talking about people who are so good that they never need to be forgiven. Those people do not exist. He is talking about people who are blinded, by ignorance or pride, to their human weakness and their need for God’s mercy. Jesus ate with the sinners – those who were publicly recognized for doing wrong – because they let him sit with them. What the Pharisees didn’t realize is that He was eating with sinners when He was eating at their tables, too. No one is free from the need to be saved. Lucky for us, our Good Shepherd is always close and always willing to carry us back to the fold.
Let us all strive to cause great rejoicing in heaven by repenting for our sins, thanking God for His Son who brings us back to safety no matter how many times we lose our way.