The Gospel according to Matthew (18:12-14)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, Your love is amazing. Thank You that You always seek me and draw me close to You. Thank You that You never give up on me, no matter how many times I turn away. Help me to seek you better during this Advent season and always. Amen.
It’s clear that the parable that Jesus mentions in today’s reading was to cause some head-shaking and chin-scratching. After all, everyone in Jesus’ time knew the role of the shepherd and the relative value of any one sheep from the flock. Would any self-respecting shepherd really leave the ninety-nine alone and go after the missing sheep? Of course not! I mean, what would there be to keep a wolf from catching and eating the ninety-nine while the shepherd is out after the one? Nothing!
That’s exactly why Jesus uses such words today. He knew it would draw a reaction. He did it for another reason, too – to demonstrate the unbelievable love of His Heavenly Father for each and every one of us. To God, each of us are the “one” and God focuses His attention and His love on each of us as if we were the ONLY ONE. It does not mean that God is ignoring everyone else when He is seeking each of us. It simply means that God never takes His eye off of us, or stops thinking about each of us. It truly boggles the mind, but we are talking about God here, not a mere human being.
God’s ultimate desire is for all of us, His children, to be with Him forever in heaven. He is totally dedicated to that desire. It’s why He gives us a virtually unlimited number of chances to turn back to Him. In essence, the only thing that prevents it from being truly unlimited is that our lives themselves are not unlimited. Eventually, each of us reaches the end of his/her life. Up to that moment, though, God is ready to take us back, even if we later choose to turn away. We may give up on God, but He will never give up on us.
As human beings, we are limited in our ability to love and to forgive. God is not limited like that. We are called to try to emulate God in loving and forgiving those in our lives. We won’t do it perfectly. We have to depend on God’s mercy and grace to be able to do it at all! May we lean on that grace every day!
Closing Prayer: Loving Lord, thank You for always seeking me and forgiving me. Help me to love and to forgive as You would, and so shine Your light into the world! Amen.
Action for the Day: Take a minute today to think of how God has been chasing You, wanting to draw You closer to Him. Then, say a prayer of thanks for that, and ask how God may use you to share that same love and forgiveness today!