These themes of the lost sheep and of the Good shepherd occur in Advent’s readings. They relate to Isaiah’s prophecy announcing the coming of the Lord (Is 40:1-11). They remind me of a story that I heard on the radio on a bus from London of this kid who comes home from a Sunday school, running and shouting: ’Mummy, mummy: did you know that we are all sheep and God is our leopard?’ I am not sure I agree with this kid but what do I know about animals, anyway?
|The lost sheep!
The story of the lost sheep tells us more about the shepherd who cares for the sheep, but we can say a few things about the sheep before we say some about the shepherd. So, how do the sheep get lost in the first place? Sometimes the sheep are lost or disappear because they want autonomy, sometimes because there is a wild animal that steals them… And sometimes, they just get lost and they have really not much to do with it, but they still face the consequences. If we apply this to believers, it is very difficult to explain how people get in the position of the lost sheep. Some people decide that the life in the flock is not good for them; they find it boring, demanding or unfair. Others grow up in circumstances that hardly help them to stay with the rest of the flock. Some people grow up to become evil and are hated by almost everyone. I remember when I started Grade 6 after the Rwandan genocide; some kids were brought into our classrooms: ex-child soldiers. We used to call them little monsters… We grew up thinking they were marked for good. Many of them are now good fathers and mothers in families.
The same thing happens over and over everywhere in the world: some people, from all classes, all conditions of life, grow up in situations that might shape their character. Some of them grow up in abusive families, dangerous neighbourhoods, judgmental communities, money-worshiping families, and so on. That might give us a glimpse into why the shepherd still wants to go after them and bring them back. Indeed, the shepherd in this case is also their creator. He loves them dearly, more than the way the best parents in the world love their children, even if these happen to be the worst, most disrespectful children. God has the full picture of the lives. When we feel good for being better than a fellow human being, we forget that in the eyes of God we are all children; his little beloved children.
How easily can we get discouraged facing someone who does not follow his/her way and went adrift, even condemn him/her forever because we lost all hope for him/her? We no longer have time; we are disappointed and perhaps exhausted because we do not see a way out. We do not understand, we no longer understand. We put barriers to protect ourselves. We become weak… And that is normal: we are just humans. But we should keep faith in God, the good shepherd. He will go after the lost person.