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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 18, 12-14

'Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray?

In truth I tell you, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all.

Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel words we have just heard are said by Jesus in a tense moment he has with the Pharisees who claimed to be the guides of the people of Israel. Jesus stigmatizes their puritanical attitude, which is intolerant and oppressive towards the weak and those who make mistakes, and he instead presents the good shepherd whose main virtue is mercy. Jesus then says the parable of the lost sheep, and he says, “What happens if a sheep is lost?” The immediate response of the shepherd—that is, of a shepherd who is good and attentive to each sheep—is to leave the other remaining sheep in safety and to go out and find that one lost sheep. He will continue to look for it until he finds it. During his search, the shepherd does not concern himself with the fault of the sheep or whether it has done wrong. What counts is the shepherd’s responsibility to make sure that no sheep gets lost beyond what the sheep do or not. Losing a sheep, even one, does not decrease the shepherd’s care for it; rather, it increases it. This is the deep meaning of this very short passage, which touches upon the depth of our brotherly responsibility that we ought to have towards others. The evangelist adds that once the sheep is found - and unfortunately, not always does the search end positively - the shepherd “rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” From the parable, Jesus clarifies that God’s desire is that no sheep get lost. Rather, God sent his Son exactly to find those who were lost. In contrast to our carelessness towards others, the Lord takes care of each and every person, starting from those who went astray. God’s eyes rest on every person, and he takes care of him or her with great love and responsibility. This is the quality of love that ought to be in Christian communities: a love that is not impersonal – as unfortunately often happens – but a love that cares for everyone as if he or she were the only one. Every disciple must learn the same care that God has for each brother and each sister. This kind of love bears the joy and celebration of fraternity. In hearing this Gospel passage, we cannot but question ourselves about the quality of love we live for one another and in our Christian communities. Indeed, how many grow weak, and sometimes distance themselves without anyone taking care of them? As the Good Shepherd, Jesus reminds us of the primacy of loving others, especially those who are weak and who are overcome by sin, those who turn into themselves by the solitude of this world.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord