If you lost a coin, would you spend time searching for it? If you lost one sheep out of one hundred, would you lose sight of the ninety-nine in order to search for the one? How much effort or time would you put into searching for a coin or one sheep? Not much most likely. I still have nine coins or ninety-nine sheep. A ten percent or one percent loss isn’t too bad. My time and effort are worth more than the loss. Too many other important goings-on to handle. "Cut your losses," move forward and learn from the situation so it doesn’t happen again.
Fortunately, our God doesn’t make decisions based on whether it is going to take too much time or require too much effort. God doesn’t figure out the cost or inconvenience. God is like a shepherd who, when he notices one sheep is missing, automatically goes in search of the straying sheep. And how long will God search? The answer is, "until he finds it" (Luke 15:4). When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he carries it home. The sheep is supported on the shoulders of the shepherd and is not left to wander home on its own.
In these stories, and the next one about the Prodigal Son, we have a picture of God’s attitude towards the sinner, which is very different from that of the Pharisee. The rabbis had a saying that there is rejoicing in heaven when one who has sinned against God is destroyed. Jesus, with these two parables today, teaches us that to God, the work of destruction is a strange work. That in which God rejoices and all heaven delights is finding a soul who is lost and bringing that individual home.
To know the heart of our God is a blessing. Through these simple stories of a lost sheep and a lost coin, we are reminded by Jesus of the care and attention God gives us, demonstrating the value that God sets upon us and the love which God bears towards us.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.