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? -Luke 15:4
Not too long ago, I couldn’t turn on the news or visit the web without hearing about “The 1%.” In the context of economic justice, the 1% were seen as those who hoarded resources at the expense of the 99%. They were perceived as privileged, above the law, disdainful of those they felt were beneath them. There were protests and even disruptions of our economic lives to bring attention to this imbalance.
In the gospel today Jesus speaks of a different 1%. Although social and economic justice were frequent themes in His teachings, this time Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its head.
Even if we don’t want to admit it, it is easy to think that people with greater resources and easier lives are more favored by God. This was certainly true in the time of Jesus. Those people that held high social status and were well off, were seen as blessed by the Lord. The 1% of that time were God’s favorites, or so it seemed. Jesus shows us a different view of God’s kingdom. According to Jesus, the 1%, the elite, the favored, the ones most deserving of the Father’s attention, were those who had strayed. And in this parable, God (the shepherd), doesn’t wait for the lost lamb to return, but leaves the 99 “good” lambs to search for the 1%.
We all stray from time to time. I know I certainly do. St. Paul himself said he was the greatest sinner (c.,f. 1Timothy 1:15). But God considers all sinners to be the 1%, those who have a special place in His kingdom. In His eyes we are all deserving of His full and undivided attention, at all times! Why is it so hard for us to accept this?
I dimly remember from some devotional book in my childhood an illustration of this gospel passage. In a simple line drawing it showed a shepherd risking His own life, reaching out on the edge of a cliff, trying to rescue a lost lamb. My prayer for today is that I lean forward into the grasp of my Shepherd.
In addition to being an independent teacher (now online!), Talib Huff is on the retreat team at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You can contact him at [email protected]