The Lost Sheep


The Gospel of Luke 15:1-10

At that time, the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which 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 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


The Gospel pericope for today comes from the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 15 and verses 1-10 and is story of the Lost Sheep.  This is a wonderful pastoral story of the shepherd who leaves his flock, to go after the one sheep that has gone astray.  Sounds simple on the surface, the shepherd needs to care for all of his sheep if he is to make a profit, but what is the spiritual application of the particular passage?

Once again we see the Pharisees and scribes getting on their high horse, not unlike what I see today, and complain that Jesus is meeting with, and eating with, sinners.  Having a meal with a sinner would have defiled pious Jews and so this was avoided, and obviously, pointed out by them when others do it.  But this is what Jesus was all about.

According to the spiritual interpretation of this passage by the fathers, the hundred sheep represent all of rational creation and the one represents humanity that has gone astray.  Christ sees the value in the one sheep, humanity, so much so that He is willing to come and save it.  The other ninety-nine are the righteous who remain faithful to God.  There is also an incarnational representation here according to the fathers.  The ninety-nine represent the angels in heaven and Christ came to earth to save the one lost sheep, humanity.

What is being said here, and I think something we all need to be reminded of from time to time, is that “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Matthew 9:12.  The Church is the hospital for those who need to become healthy.  In a previous essay I wrote about the Good Samaritan and in that parable the Inn that the man was brought to is symbolic of the Church where he was cared for.  Not necessarily in a physical way, but in a spiritual way.

Christians are not perfect, far from it, and we all need the salve that the Church has to offer.  When Saint Francis founded his order there were three things that he wanted them to do, heal the wounded, bind up those who are bruised, and to reclaim the erring.  This is what the Church needs to be involved in, not politics, but healing, healing the wounds of the culture that is in desperate need of healing.


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