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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola offers us an opportunity to reflect on sin in our own lives and in the world. Like the lost sheep, however, we are not left on our own to despair of our sinfulness. God loves us. When I would hear today’s Gospel as a child, I remember thinking that it didn’t make any sense for a shepherd to leave 99 well-behaved and cooperative sheep in order to search for one that had wandered away. Even from this suburban girl’s minimal knowledge of farm animals, it seemed to me that the 99 were more likely to get themselves into trouble without the shepherd there to watch them. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve come to a greater understanding of what Jesus is saying to us. Rather than thinking of myself as one of the 99, I realize that I am–as we all are–a sinner. I am the lost sheep.
In spite of our sinfulness, and seeks us out when we have wandered away. This love is not a passive love where God waits for us to see the error of our ways and come back to him. Rather, God, like the shepherd, actively seeks us out when we wander, forgives us, and invites us into a deeper relationship with him.
One of the meditations in the First Week invites us to imagine that we are praying to Jesus on the cross. During this time, we ask ourselves:
What have I done for Christ?
What am I doing for Christ?
What ought I do for Christ?
As we enter more deeply into this season of Advent, I find myself drawn to the image of the infant Jesus. I imagine myself sitting and rocking Mary’s baby, just as I have spent so many hours rocking with my own children. As I look down into the face of baby Jesus, embodying peace, hope and promise, I ask myself:
What have I done for the infant Jesus?
What am I doing for the infant Jesus?
What ought I do for the infant Jesus?
—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality. www.charisministries.org
Lord, it’s almost too much to comprehend – you seek us! Regardless of the number of times we have fallen short, you, nonetheless, pursue us. Though such personal love sometimes seems too good to be true, we embrace your divine fidelity. We will seek your voice in the ordinary exchanges of the day. We will look with great anticipation upon the wonderful ways you will connect with our lives. We simply need to believe and never underestimate your constancy.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team