Part 2 of the 3 part series: The Lost Sheep
The Lost Sheep is part of the two-week study "The Lost Series"
When we get lost in life, we do this interesting thing where we take a while to admit it. Whether it's driving in some new cities, trying to get our life back on track, or simply changing our mind/plan, there's a moment where we have to accept that we could use some clarification. The funny thing is we often know where we're going, but we just got lost somewhere in the middle. Of course there are also those times where we really have no clue where we're going (much less where we are), but the good news is that when any of this happens to us spiritually, Jesus is always actively seeking to find us.
Yesterday we mentioned that in the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd didn't get upset at the sheep or punish it for having gotten lost. He simply sought after it out of love, brought it back and rejoiced with his friends! He focused on the present, not the past. There is so much imagery in the Bible about sheep and shepherds, partially because the people at the time could identify with them. But when we think of a shepherd and his flock, there's a beautiful relationship of trust, patience, and unity there on which we should reflect. It gives us a glimpse into the relationship which Jesus desires with each one of us no matter how many times we fail and find ourselves "lost." A shepherd knows there will always be wolves prowling about to steal his sheep away from his flock; in the same way, Jesus knows we encounter trials and temptations that can distract us from him and steal away our faith, hope, and confidence. He is not surprised when we fall, so why are we?
Take a moment to reflect, and let us ask ourselves the following questions: How often am I afraid to come back to Christ after I've been lost for a while, perhaps a long time? Do I believe that he continually seeks me out of love, no matter how close or far I am from him? How does he show me this? What are those wolves in my life that seem to constantly linger, waiting to pull me away from God? Are there ways I can be more aware of them in order to better avoid them in the future? Do I let Jesus seek after my heart and show me his love, or do I try to keep some parts of me "lost," hidden, secret? Do I know that my actions do not change my inherent dignity and worth? Or do I feel that I need to be perfect -- one of the 99 righteous sheep instead of the one that's lost -- in order for Jesus to love me?
In the 17th century, there was a heresy called Jansenism. It taught that we had to be perfect to approach God, resulting in fear and few people receiving communion. The devil tends to diminish a temptation beforehand and augment the sin afterward, wanting us to believe that the Jansenist view of Jesus is true, that God is angrily waiting to punish us. But that couldn't be further from the truth! Jesus Christ loves us so much that he will actively seek us out no matter how far we stray. He waits in every tabernacle in the world just to have a few minutes with us as his beloved daughters. He wants to shower his mercy and love on our souls if we just come to him and say, "Jesus, I'm lost. You know it and I know it. Please, bring me back in your arms, on your shoulders, because you are my help and my shield! I wait for you, O Lord, and I trust in your steadfast love! In you I am found." (Ps 33:20-22)
Let's encourage each other to keep reflecting on our answers in prayer and perhaps use lectio divina for this parable. This liberating self-knowledge helps us to see our smallness compared to God. We recognize our sin and attachments, and then we are encouraged to thank and praise Him for setting us free, for being our Savior! We are all sinners, so we are all lost to a certain degree. Let us also all be found in our Lord, Jesus Christ.