The Sacrifice of the Shepherd

Challenge: Try to communicate God’s loving mercy to one person in word, writing or example.
by Father John Bullock, LC | Source:

November 6, 2008
Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 15: 1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he 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. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that 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 of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gift of this new day. I thank you for the gift of your faithful friendship. Help me to increase my faith in your action in my life. Help me to await the fulfillment of your promises with hope. Let me respond to you with an ever-increasing love.

Petition: Lord, let me work continuously on my own conversion and each day become more like you.

1. Invitation to Conversion
The Church is often accused of not being inclusive enough, of being too judgmental, and of not making the effort to reach out to sinners like Christ did. It seems to some that today’s Church resembles the self-righteous Pharisees more than its divine founder. However, the Church, like Christ, reaches out to all people and invites them to conversion: For every act of forgiveness on the part of Christ, there was also an explicit or implicit “Go and sin no more” (cf. John 5:14 and 8:11). The shepherd seeks the lost sheep to bring it back to the fold. This sheep is free to stray, but by doing so it exposes itself to greater danger. It’s easier for the wolves to attack a sheep alone than one under the protection of the shepherd.

2. The Shepherd’s Sacrifice
It would be easier for the shepherd to let the stray sheep go: “It has its own life, I can’t make it do anything. If it gets hurt, it’s not my fault.” Yet this would be the behavior of a hired hand who, “sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them” (John 10:12). The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (cf. John 10:11). The first and principal shepherd is Christ. Yet throughout its history, the Church has had many other shepherds, servants of Christ, who have laid down their lives for their sheep, through martyrdom or heroic service. Christ continues his loving vigilance over us through his pastors.

3. We Are All Sinners
The Catholic Church has always understood conversion as an on-going process. As long as we’re alive, our salvation isn’t definitive. We may have decided to live in God’s fold, but that doesn’t remove our struggle with sin. We’re all sinners. That’s why we pray the act of contrition at the beginning of Mass: “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.” As long as our awareness of our weakness is real, then self-righteousness is less likely. Yet our weakness doesn’t discourage us, for it makes us cling all the more to Christ, whose, “grace is sufficient… for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to recognize that I, too, am a sinner in need of your forgiveness. Let me come to you for forgiveness, healing and strength. Do not let me use my weaknesses as an excuse for not collaborating in your effort to reach all men and women with your saving message.

Resolution: Today I will try to communicate God’s loving mercy to one person in word, writing or example.

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