Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13;Matthew 18:12-14
Saint Damasus I, Pope
“Will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Matthew 18:12)
The parable of the lost sheep is one of the most powerful images from the whole New Testament. Long before they hung crosses in their homes, first-century believers prayed before pictures and sculptures of Jesus carrying a lamb over his shoulders.
And who can blame them? This story reminds all of us of Jesus’ unending love. It tells us about the lengths that he will go to in order to find us when we wander and become lost: It also gives us an image of the mercy and compassion Jesus shows us as he brings us back to safety.
Countless prayers, poems, hymns, and even plays have been written about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. They speak of him binding up our wounds, strengthening us when we are weak, and leading us to restful fields. They speak of his voice calling us by name, the firm but gentle hold he has on our lives, and his dogged determination to seek us out, even when we don’t want to be found.
One of the most moving prayers to the Good Shepherd was written in the fourth century by St. Gregory of Nyssa:
“Where are you pasturing your flock, O Good Shepherd, who carry the whole flock on your shoulders? For the whole of human nature is one sheep, and you have lifted it onto your shoulders. Show me the place of peace. Lead me to the good grass that will nourish me. Call me by name so that I, your sheep, can hear your voice. And by your speech give me eternal life… .
“Show me then (my soul says) where you pasture your flock, so that I can find that saving pasture too and fill myself with the food of heaven … and run to the spring and fill myself with the drink of God. You give it, as from a spring, to those who thirst—water pouring from your side cut open by the lance; water that, to whoever drinks it, is a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“Jesus, shepherd of my soul, lead me and guide me today. Don’t let me stray from you, Lord. I know you are the only one who can keep me safe!”~WAU