Commentary on the Gospel of
In our world, it seems that there is not always so much room for hope. After all, we reap what we sow, as the saying goes. When you’ve made your bed, you lie in it. In other words, you get what you deserve. No second chances.
It is in pondering such initial thoughts that I consider how truly counter-cultural it is to look to Jesus as our model; as the one to imitate. Today, Luke tells us one of Jesus’ most well-known parables about the lost sheep. Jesus’ story about the man who leaves 99 of his sheep to go after the one that is lost counters our most basic instinct. It contradicts our worldly sensibilities that are calibrated toward self-preservation. Surely, it is in the man’s best interest to focus on the 99 and not concern himself with the one that strayed. However, in today’s first reading Paul gives witness to the shaky ground upon which this premise stands. Upon encountering Jesus, Paul attests that whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. In other words, his accomplishments according to what the world valued meant less than nothing once he encountered Jesus and realized what he meant for the world. His whole understanding of existence and what was truly of value had to be recalibrated upon this encounter. Indeed, that God would seek out the lost sheep - in this case, Paul, who had persecuted the Church - was reason for hope.
To some, such hope may seem a fairy tale; a simple coping mechanism we employ to escape the seeming cold reality of the world of no second chances. However, Christian hope is not purely sentimental. It is also rational. Not only are we, at times, the sheep in Jesus’ parable needing to be found. We are also called to be the one who seeks the lost sheep in our world. Throughout the whole of human history, we have seen what is wrought by those who seek only personal gain and self-preservation. The ending is all too predictable but no less tragic. It is only by choosing the way of the shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep, however, that what is broken is restored, that what is incomplete becomes whole, and that we may, through Christ and for his glory, work to build the Kingdom of God in our midst.
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