At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
“Will he not leave the other ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of a stray?” Is this a trick question? Because this doesn’t seem like the obvious course of action to me at all. I’ve never been a shepherd and I’ve never seen a sheep outside of a petting zoo, but there’s a reason they need full-time shepherding, right? If you go looking for the one, couldn’t you lose five more? Jesus’ rhetorical question strikes me as unreasonable.
The kingdom doesn’t always work quite like I expect it to. In fact, it usually doesn’t. Part of the unexpectedness that the reading invites today is an extravagance that goes beyond what I might think is reasonable. I wonder, where am I being called to love with unreasonable extravagance today? Who are the lost ones in my life I’m called to find and rejoice over?
—Matthew Spotts, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching history and religion at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Indianapolis IN.
Jesus can’t stand losing one of his own. “Father, may none get lost of those you have given to me.” This is a God who walks around searching for us and has a certain loving weakness for those who are furthest away, who are lost. Jesus goes and searches for them. And how does he search? He searches until the end, like the shepherd who goes out into the darkness, searching until he finds the sheep. “I won’t lose this child, he’s mine! And I don’t want to lose him.” This is our Father: he always comes searching for us.”
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