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Mt 18:1-5, 12-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.


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Lost sheep and good shepherds 

There are so many questions we could ask of a parable. Today is no exception. Why would a shepherd leave ninety-nine for one? It’s unreasonable and irresponsible, right? And what more, shepherds in first century Palestine did not have great reputations. Shepherding was a “despised trade,” so why does Jesus identify with it, and then ask his followers to do the same? 

It’s good to bring our questions to Scripture, as it expands our knowledge and intimacy with the text. But lest we lose ourselves in countless questions, it’s helpful not to wander too far from the face-value focus of the passage, which is “the certainty of searching and the celebration of finding.”

In other words, Jesus reveals two core promises here. First, if you feel stuck, lost, or alone, God is searching for you. Second, when you find each other, God won’t arrive chastising, mocking, or sneering. Rather he will embrace you at once, rejoicing as he carries you home. 

—Christopher Alt, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province. He is a psychotherapist now studying theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

 


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Prayer 

Where recently have you felt lost, stuck, and alone?

Even if you don’t feel God’s immediate presence, take a moment now to imagine Jesus, the Good Shepherd, searching for you. Over hill and under rock, ours is a God who labors to find. Let this image be your prayer today. 

—Christopher Alt, SJ 


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Prayer 

Merciful Jesus, may I become more aware of the words and acts of kindness bestowed on me by others. May that awareness fill me with gratitude. Grant me the ability to speak milder words and perform generous acts that reveal your divine love for humanity and the world. Amen.

Russ Long


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The Holy Father’s Monthly Prayer Intentions Brought to you by Apostleship of Prayer the first Friday of each month.
For Small Businesses – The Pope Video 08 – August 2022
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Ignatian spirituality reminds us that God pursues us in the routines of our home and work life, and in the hopes and fears of life's challenges. The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, created the Spiritual Exercises to deepen our relationship with Christ and to move our contemplation into service. May this prayer site anchor your day and strengthen your resolve to remember what truly matters.

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