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Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Imagine being among those who heard Jesus address the Pharisees and scribes in the encounter we hear in today’s Gospel: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” Would you leave ninety-nine in the desert in order to find one lost sheep? In the parable, Jesus is showing us the depths of God’s love, the illogical, incredible love God has for each of us. Moses counted on this loving mercy as he spoke for the wandering people; Saint Paul acknowledges his reliance on it in his letter to Timothy. God desires to draw you close, seeking you when you are lost. Are you ready to be drawn into God’s loving embrace?

The Missing Precious Ones

Who would leave the ninety-nine in order to seek out the one, lost sheep? We sometimes read or see accounts of missing children. We cannot really grasp the feelings of the parents or family members. Their world stops. Their hearts ache. The parents do not forget their other children, but for a time, their focus is solely on the one who is missing. They join the search party, or sit anxiously by the phone, waiting for news of the return of the child. It is this sort of love that Jesus describes in the parable of the lost sheep. And yet, Jesus told the parable in response to criticism by Pharisees and scribes because he was welcoming sinners and eating with them. So, in Jesus’ parable, the sheep is not accidentally lost. The sheep has strayed. And still, the shepherd went out in search of it. The sheep is precious to the shepherd, even though it had wandered away. Like the Israelites in the desert who had created idols in Moses’ absence. Like us, when we turn away from God and God’s ways, doing what we feel like, rather than what we know is right and good.

Rejoicing When the Lost are Found

The shepherd in the parable leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the one who had wandered, and only returns home when that one, that precious one, had been found. All are precious in the eyes of the shepherd. The woman turned her house upside down in order to find her lost coin and, upon finding it, called her friends and neighbors. Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them. Have you wandered away, through your actions or inactions? Jesus’ parable assures us that there is great joy in heaven when the lost one repents. Turn back to the Lord, and know that there will be great rejoicing in heaven upon your return.


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