“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it” (Lk 15:4)?
At first hearing, how many of those present hearing the parable, or us today reading it, would answer yes? To most of us it would not make sense to leave the ninety-nine to go and search for the one that was lost.
What this parable represents is the love that God has for each and everyone of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God loves us with an everlasting love and is continually reaching out to us because he is the foundation and source of who we are. This parable also represents a microcosm of the public ministry of Jesus.
Jesus met people one on one, person to person. He encountered the blind, the lame, the leper, the Syrophoenician woman, the woman at the well, the woman accused of adultery, the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. Jesus not only healed these people and so many others who were considered to be on the outside looking in, he restored their dignity as human beings. Jesus loved each of them as a unique person.
Jesus encounters us in our uniqueness, as we are and where we are and loves each and everyone of us more than we can fathom. No matter how far we may feel we have strayed, or messed up, Jesus loves us, he will not leave us. Jesus does not define us by our worst sins or mistakes. He opens his arms and invites us into his loving embrace so that we may feel and experience the beating of his Sacred Heart. With each thump, thump, thump, all our anxiety, fears, hurts, and pain begin to fade away and we begin to heal, we begin to feel our dignity, we begin to feel loved.
No matter what we may be going through or experiencing, Jesus is searching for us, reaching out for us, for he is already present to us. We just need to be willing to be found and allow him to lift us up on his shoulders and carry us and care for us. As we do so and as we continue to experience his love, we will come to believe and say, as did St Paul,“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?… Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us” (cf. Romans 8:35-37).
Once we experience the beating of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, rest and renew in the rhythm of it, we are to share his love with others. We too are to love with the same radical love of the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine to rescue the one, no matter who that one may be.
Photo: Stain glass window at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, June 28, 2019, Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062819.cfm