It doesn’t make much sense when we think of sheep as an economic value to leave ninety nine of them in the wilderness to go out and search for one single lost item. Fiscally it would be reckless to do so. You leave ninety nine of them without protection in order to go find a single one. The return on the investment would be astronomically minuscule if the other 99 were gone when the shepherd returned. In the ways of man, with our concentration on self comfort, wealth, power and honor… it makes zero sense. In the economy of salvation though… it makes perfect sense.
Christ proclaimed this mystery when He said that He came as a physician, not to heal those who were already well, but the sick who were in need of Him. There are many people out there who have that holier than though attitude. The notion that we are the saved ones and them? They? The ones over there? They are the sick. If that is so, then Christ is not after us. After all how can He offer us Salvation if we don’t feel we are the ones who need it? That’s why the Church looks the way it is now. The world tries to hold us to a standard of perfection. Those Christians have to be perfect, but those who aren’t religious? They can do whatever. The Church is not a museum for the perfect, but a hospital for the sinner.
That’s what the Sacraments are all about. A moment of encounter in which the sick go into to see the physician. In penance we go in with our symptoms and come out after a shot of medicine and a prescription of how to maintain that health. In the Eucharist we go forth for a checkup in which Christ enters us himself. It may sound silly but sometimes it reminds me of that movie Inner Space, where they shrink down and go into a persons body to try to get rid of whatever is ailing him. Christ does that, He takes that work on the cross and applies it to us. He comes into us again and again to help push out those things that aren’t quite right, those little things that keep us from being perfect. It is He, who through a lifetime and beyond, who makes us perfect.. Who turns us into Saints. We need Him. He knows that. So He makes it happen.
Today as I was venturing around Belvidere I walked through a pretty harsh neighborhood. The water there looked as if it was coming straight out of a sewage pipe. People were walking around in gang colors. I passed by a ‘Relaxation Station’ that touted with bold words that if you took the full package the lady of your choice would ‘join you in the Jacuzzi’. Another place warned that not only could you not wear saggy pants, but that ‘gang activity would not be tolerated on premises.’ I was nervous to say the least. Then a man walked by in raggy clothes and torn pants. His shirt open revealing sunken ribs and obvious signs he had not eaten or bathed in a long time. He asked me for a dollar and I said ‘I don’t have any cash on me.’ That was the truth. Yet Christ had just walked by me and I didn’t recognize Him. I didn’t offer Him what I did have, a moment of compassion, a prayer, a conversation… I just kept walking. One of the lost ones might have been going by and unlike the Savior, I didn’t go after Him but returned to the safety of the ninety nine.
That’s why I need Him. Because I am not there yet. Forgive me.
His servant and yours,
“He must increase, I must decrease.”
A reflection on the daily readings for Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time: August 9th, 2016. Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Psalm 119; A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14