Today’s readings invite us to place ourselves in the position of the lost sheep. Being lost, at least as depicted in these passages, is the result of heedless or foolish choices. Jerusalem’s lostness is the consequence of the people’s sin. The sheep in Matthew’s gospel has wandered away from the flock. The tale of my own travel experiences is replete with stories of being lost because of such errors as jumping on a bus without noticing that it was headed to a city other than my intended destination.
Being lost can be a salutary experience. It teaches us to appreciate how dependent we are on outside help. I have heard people tell how such helped arrived in the form of everything from a well-placed signpost to the appearance of a mysterious stranger—presumably an angel. In the Isaiah passage help comes from a compassionate God who first whispers tenderly to the dejected people, then marches out as conquering hero to rescue them from their distress. When the actual moment of deliverance arrives, however, the image is no longer that of the God of power but of a shepherd carrying lambs in his arms and “leading the ewes with care.” The picture is identical to the one Jesus presents in his parable.
On this Advent day, let us acknowledge the many ways in which we and our world are lost, but also rejoice in the knowledge that our compassionate Shepherd is able to save us and is longing to do so.
- Sister Mary O’Brien, C.P. is amember of the Passionist Sisters’ community in Union City, NJ.