Department stores, bus terminals, big hotels, and many other places where humans congregate often have a Lost and Found counter or section. People who have lost something can address themselves to whoever is in charge and reclaim whatever they have lost. What is impressive about a Lost and Found department is the number of valuable belongings that are never reclaimed. Somehow it seems their owners were either too lazy to reclaim them, too busy with some other concern, or too forgetful to have noticed their loss.
The parable in today’s gospel reading tells a very different story. It says that in the area of lost and found human beings, God will never stop looking for what He has lost. He always goes and reclaims what has been lost. He is never resigned to His loss because He loves each one of us too much to give up on finding us and bringing us back to the fold.
Now, at this point, some of us might feel uneasy about what is said in the parable concerning the shepherd who leaves behind the 99 sheep which are not lost. “Isn’t the shepherd,” they ask, “taking a big risk when he does this? Suppose the 99 sheep left behind all get lost? What would the shepherd thus have gained?”
We often think “democratically” in terms of the majority or greater number. God thinks in terms of the value of individuals (so much so that God cares for every sparrow that falls to the ground). We rejoice with those who are exemplary or outstanding. God’s great joy is in finding those considered lost, last, and least. We search for the good, and we run after those with great potential, while God pursues and looks for those who have sinned and have hurt themselves. We reward excellence; God rewards the smallest step toward change and conversion. I am glad that God is not like us!
The movie Saving Private Ryan was set during World War II. A platoon of highly trained Rangers led by a captain was sent to save the said soldier whose brother died in that same war. The government, wanting to bring home at least one of the sons alive, ordered the retrieval of Pvt. Ryan from the battlefield. Throughout the movie, the recurring question was ever-present: Was one life worth risking several others? For, indeed, the whole platoon died saving that one.
Our God is a tremendous lover, and He loves each one of us as though we are the only ones existing in this planet. Since every person is a unique individual, God loves him/her with utmost patience. The analogy of a person to that of a sheep is very proper. A person goes astray for the simplest of reasons, to satisfy his curiosity, pride, power, or pleasure. So too, is a sheep, easily fooled! God actively works for their return every time they go astray. He will seek them by varied means and signs to convince them to return to the fold. God rejoices when He finds the lost one. May the picture of a good and happy Shepherd with the lost sheep on His shoulder encourage us to love Him in return and rejoice with God.
Look into yourself and see with whom you identify in the parable—with the lost or with the ninety-nine—and find out why.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.