Bringing Home the Lost Sheep

Written by Sr. Rosemary, O.P.
Readings from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121019.cfm

In just a couple of weeks, we’ll be having our live Nativity scene again right outside these doors in the courtyard.  Besides watching this beautiful Nativity scene unfold before us in such a quiet and solemn way, the other thing I love to observe is the little children who are watching. They are so captivated and awed with the live, and precious, baby goats and lambs…and even a donkey!

When you see these special animals, a whole image of Jesus’ gospel message today about losing just one of them takes on new meaning:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.”

Who of us wouldn’t want to chase down that little sheep on Park Avenue if he escaped from the pen!  And, when we caught him, we’d be out of breath but very happy.

It’s the message that follows those gospel lines, however, that should be of imminent importance to us:

‘In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost."

Sadly, and using Jesus’ figurative image, who of us doesn’t know someone who has left the Catholic Church, or doesn’t believe in God, or has who become indifferent to a spiritual life?

In the Oct., 2018 Pew Research Survey about Catholicism, this glaring statistic stands out: ‘Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss due to religious switching than has any other religious tradition in the U.S. Overall, 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics.’https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/10/7-facts-about-american-catholics/

If we wouldn’t hesitate to chase a little lamb down Park Avenue, why do we hesitate when it comes to inviting someone back to the Church?  Do we even have the courage to engage them in a conversation?  Do we listen to their reasons for leaving?  It’s all a process, but it has to start with that first invitation.  And at Christmas, when we see people returning to Mass, do we take that opportunity to engage them in a discussion?  Are we hospitable, or are we judgmental?

Perhaps this Advent, we can personally reach out to someone we know who has strayed from the faith, and as a community, we can make an extra effort to be welcoming to all.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?”