During his public ministry Jesus reached out to sinners – and provoked the Pharisees! Jesus proclaimed that he had come to call sinners, and not the self-righteous…and so the Pharisees made their judgments and murmured about the kind of company Jesus was keeping – complaining that Jesus even eats with sinners (if Jesus had not eaten with sinners he would have had to eat alone…)!
God values each human being, saint or sinner. God doesn’t want to give up on any of us; we’re worth more than a single sheep or a single coin. That message of Jesus touched St. Paul the Apostle and motivated him to change from being a persecutor to a zealous apostle preaching the Gospel to as many as possible…a living witness that God loves each human being!
As we hear Jesus preaching about the preciousness of a single sinner, we should not be passive spectators wondering whom Jesus is talking about…he is talking about us! We each have been a lost sheep, but a very valuable lost sheep; Jesus the Good Shepherd diligently searches for each of us, calls for a change of heart – and then joyfully puts us on his shoulders and leads us back to the fold which is the Church.
The value of all humans is witnessed by St. Charles Borromeo, a 16th century disciple of Jesus / man of the Church who devoted himself to the people of God and the reform of the Church about the time of the Council of Trent. He was called to utilize his youth, his education and influence to become a leader who taught as much by example as by learning and words. He reached out to the poor and needy of his day, sacrificing wealth, honor and influence to serve them – even in the challenges of the plagues and famines of his day, ministering to the sick, the hungry, and the dying.
We are all part of sinful humanity, needing redemption by our loving Savior, Jesus. Despite our unworthiness, Jesus seeks us out, lights the lamp, sweeps the house – and rejoices with us! A simple meditation on the Cross of Jesus puts it all into perspective: Jesus’ arms lovingly embrace us all. Thanks be to God for St. Charles Borromeo, St. Paul of the Cross, and all those "official" and "everyday" saints who call us deeper into God’s Love.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.