Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10
Of all of the beautiful parables that Jesus shares with us through His Divine Word, this is by far my favorite; probably because it hits the closest to home for me. As I was growing up, I was always the one who was not “part of the group.” I was the one who tried so hard to be one of the sheep but found it very hard to fit in. I was that outsider that needed to be rescued. I was looking for someone to step away from the group, find me, and bring me into the fold. Now, this parable isn’t about fitting it but it is about looking at things, at others differently. Not through our own lens but through the eyes of Jesus. Remember, the oft-forgotten saying, “What Would Jesus Do?” Well, we read this passage in scripture and we know exactly what He would do. He would search heaven and earth for you, even if you were the only person on this earth. He loves you and me that much that He drops everything to ensure we are safe and sound.
Our Lord took a considerable amount of flak from the Pharisees for taking the time to get to know the less respectable crowd. In those days, “sinners” were marginalized and treated with contempt. Today, attitudes have changed. Folks that were considered sinners back then would now be mainstream; some of them would probably even be celebrities. But one thing is still the same: People still judge others by the company they keep. For better or worse, people are judged by their associations. That brings up a good question. Would people be able to tell that you and I have been spending time with the Lord? What would they think of Christ and his influence on us? Are the Lord’s standards reflected in our lives?
Jesus’ description of going out to get the sinner is truly consoling. Perhaps this brings up a beautiful memory of how he came to my rescue when I was one of the wooly ones wandering far from the flock. But that’s now a changed scenario. I am in the flock. How do you and I stay here and keep from wandering off? The Good Shepherd gives us so many tools, but we need to use them. If we slacken in our prayer life and participate with routine and lack of fervor in the sacraments, we may find ourselves wondering what other pastures may be like. Let’s focus on being faithful within the beautiful flock of the Church.
Returning to the thought about people judging others based on the company they keep, we can easily see why those judgments occur: People that spend time together often start to become like each other since they share many of the same interests. Jesus reveals in the parable what His driving, passionate interest is: the salvation of the individual soul. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” The Lord is always looking to set off fireworks in heaven with one more conversion. If we are hanging around Jesus enough, we are probably starting to sound like Him. If not, are we really spending as much time with him as we think? Are we trying to bring back the lost sheep that we know?
Let us soak up the grace of His divine influence so that we will truly reflect in our actions the reality of His work in our souls. Grant us a little portion of the burning desire that He had to bring back the lost sheep.
I will leave you today with a beautiful song by Audio Adrenaline that sums up everything He is sharing with us in His Word today. I pray that it helps you on your journey as it has on mine.
Peace and Blessings.