When hearing the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, one might be tempted to raise the question: why did the shepherd make such a big deal out of losing one sheep when he still had ninety-nine remaining? Or, why did the woman turn her house upside down to find one coin when she still had nine left?
We know from experience that when we lose something it takes on an exaggerated value. Let’s say you lose your house key or car key. As soon as you discover that it is lost, it becomes more important than the sum total of all the things we still have. The reality is, we never know the value of what we have until we lose it.
There is a delightful story that one day Jesus came upon a shepherd who was overcome with sorrow. “Why are you so sad?” he asked. The shepherd responded, “I have lost one of my sheep and though I have looked all over for it, I have not found it. It may be that the wolves have already devoured it.” On hearing this Jesus said, “Wait here. I will look for the sheep myself.”
With that he disappeared into the hills. Some hours later he returned with the sheep. Putting it down at the shepherd’s feet he said, “From this day on you must love this sheep more than any other in your flock, for it was lost and now has been found.”
The point Jesus was making in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin is this: every person is important and precious in the eyes of God. All the more so if that person is lost. God will love that person more, not less.
The Pharisees, filled with pride, regarded themselves as the paragons of virtue and had nothing to do with sinners. They believed that God had nothing to do with sinners. The central dogma of their religion was: God loves the virtuous, and despises sinners. However, Jesus turned the table upside down on them by showing them that God loves all people equally.
The Gospels show us that Jesus was kind, gentle and loving in his approach to sinners. He knew that rejection and passing judgment never help to change a person, so he let people know that they were accepted and loved as he invited them to respond and change. He always drew on the good in people and knew that conversion of heart and transformation of life were possibilities.
Jean Vanier so beautifully said: “The person in misery does not need a look that judges and criticizes, but a comforting presence that bring peace and hope and life.”
- Fr. Dennis, Septemer 15, 2019