Gospel: Mt 18:12-14
What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won‘t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray. It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven doesn’t want even one of these little ones to perish.
The discourse deals with various issues involving relationships in the Christian community, and especially when those relationships break down.The ‘little ones‘ are not just children but those who are weak and immature in their Christian faith. They can easily be misled and abused. They may find themselves lost and alienated in the process. It is at this point that Jesus speaks the parable of the shepherd. A shepherd who has lost just one sheep out of one hundred. He leaves all the ‘good‘ ones and goes in search of the stray. And, when he finds it and brings it back, he is happier over this lost sheep than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away. A significant point is being made here: God loves us unconditionally and is not only ready to have us back in the fold but rejoices in having somebody who is left behind being again part of the community. This parable can be applied both to those ‘little ones‘ who were led astray or those who did the terrible thing of leading them astray. Both will be welcomed back with equal joy. What matters is having an inclusive faith and not an exclusive mindset. It is important to reflect on how we look on those who have gone astray morally or on those who may have been instrumental in causing scandal or damaging a relationship. How judgmental are we or how exclusive are we? How welcoming are we to receive back the wrongdoer not just grudgingly but with forgiveness and joy? Let the words of Jesus be deeply etched on our hearts at this time: ”It is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
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