At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
As a young Jesuit, I spent several months on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. It was the heart of winter, and we would occasionally see cattle who had gotten lost and frozen to death. A parishioner who was a rancher explained that this was more or less normal. “You never like it,” he said, “but you try to take care of as many as you can. You can’t always stop the odd stray.”
Jesus makes a different calculation. Unwilling to accept that even a single ‘little one’ be lost, he proposes the image of a shepherd willing to risk whatever might happen to the other ninety-nine in the hills in order to find the lost little one.
Who are the little ones who I know are lost, the ones I’m tempted to shrug off as “just one of those things?” What am I willing to leave behind or risk to go find the lost one?
—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.
God, nothing is beneath your notice because you love all things into being. Help me to seek out the one who is lost, to rejoice in the finding of that one and, little by little, to become humble like a child.
—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!