Sunday, August 12, 2018
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So Jesus 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. – Luke 15:1-5
Obviously, this parable is about tasking the risk to save the one who is lost. It is about the Christian ethic of the worth of the individual. It is about rescuing those imperiled rather than to playing it safe. But this morning I allow myself a rare chance to wander off on a tangent path.
It is again one of those details that we often overlook, a detail that may have a significance not at first noticed. When the shepherd finds that lost sheep, he lays it across his own shoulders and rejoices. No reporting of the shepherd chastising the sheep; no reporting of the shepherd punishing the sheep; no reporting of the shepherd chasing the sheep back to flock; rather the shepherd carries the sheep on his shoulders and while carrying that sheep, rejoicing.
Why did the shepherd carry the sheep on his shoulders? Fear that this wayward sheep would runaway again? Possibly. But I think it was more likely that the sheep was wounded or in distress. So the shepherd carries the sheep.
And that emphasis on rejoicing on the part of the shepherd. This is also noted in the similar parables of the lost coin and the prodigal son … the woman and the father rejoice when what was lost is found. This rejoicing … I imagine it is part relief, it is part the thanksgiving that comes when the fear of loss results in a happy ending, it is in part the peace that comes when wholeness is restored.
In our ever burgeoning mass society, the individual can easily be lost in the crowd. Individuals become numbers in a chart of profit and loss. Individuals become expendable in the corporate cause. Individuals become but acceptable casualties in an ongoing war. Individuals become just one soul lost in the crowd or lost in the unseen loneliness.
That one sheep … when tending a flock of so many … why worry about a wayward sheep? In God’s economy … each individual matters.
Always in Christ’s Service
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz