Lectio Divina: Matthew 18:12-14
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
You are near to us
in Jesus Christ Your Son.
When we go astray,
You look for us until You find us.
Bring us back to You,
show us the way to You
and to one another
through Him who is our way,
Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord,
who lives with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - 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."
• A parable is not a teaching to be received in a passive way or just to be kept in the memory. Rather, it is an invitation to participate in the discovery of truth. Jesus begins by asking, “What do you think?” A parable is a question with a response which is not defined. The response depends on the reaction and participation of the listeners. Let us then seek the answer to this parable of the lost sheep.
• Jesus tells a very brief story and in a very simple way: a shepherd had 100 sheep, he lost one, and leaves the 99 on the mountain and goes to look for the lost sheep. And Jesus asks, “What do you think?” that is, “Would you do the same?” Which would have been the response of the shepherds and of the other persons who were listening to Jesus tell this story? Would they do the same thing? Which is my answer to Jesus’ question? Let us think well before answering.
• If you had 100 sheep and you lost one, what would you do? We should not forget that mountains are places which are very difficult to climb, with deep precipices, where dangerous animals live and where robbers hide. And you cannot forget that you have lost only one sheep, and therefore, you still have 99! You have lost very little. Would you abandon the other 99 on those mountains? Perhaps, would not only a person with little common sense do what the shepherd of the parable of Jesus did? Think about it!
• The shepherds who heard Jesus’ story perhaps thought and commented, “Only a shepherd without judgment would act that way!” Surely, they would have asked Jesus, “Jesus, excuse us, but who is that shepherd whom You are speaking about? To do what he did is foolish!”
• Jesus answers, “This Shepherd is God, our Father, and the lost sheep is you!” In other words, the one who does this action is God moved by great love for the little ones, for the poor, the excluded! Only a very great love is able to do something so foolish. The love with which God loves us exceeds prudence and good human sense. The love of God commits foolish things. Thank God! If it were not like this, we would be lost!
4) Personal questions
• Place yourself in the place of the little lost sheep and enliven your faith and your hope. You are that sheep!
• Take the place of the shepherd and consider whether your love for the little ones is true.
• How can we be instruments in God’s effort to return the lost sheep? In this season of harvest celebrations, thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas, with family all around, do we leave to try to help and welcome those that are lost, poor, and without, as this shepherd would?
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Sing to the Lord; bless His name;
announce His salvation, day after day. (Ps 96)