As I read this morning’s gospel, I must have been giving it less that 100% of my attention because suddenly I said to myself, “Wait a minute! I thought Jesus was talking about little children, not sheep.” And so he was. The text from Matthew 18 began with a question from the disciples to Jesus about who was greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. (I think the disciples were overly concerned about that issue – as are people living now, although more about who is greatest on earth.) Jesus was very clear in his answer. (see vs. 1-5. Hint: it’s the little children).
Abruptly, however, or so it seems, Jesus starts talking about a shepherd with 100 sheep who leaves the 99 to find the one who wanders off and gets lost. (vs.10-14) I’ve always loved that section and actually all the texts about real shepherds whose job isn’t the easiest in the world. Think about it! Sheep generally are pretty similar in their looks. One would need to really get to know them deeply in order to distinguish them one from another…but I digress. The last line pulls it all together. Jesus says, “In just the same way (as with the sheep), it is not the will of your Heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”
So what is the lesson here. I think it’s one of those texts where multiple meanings are possible and all are worth considering. It could be a call to care for children – and how timely is that message right now? It could be a reminder of the importance of humility…or the fact that the less fortunate need our attention. It could be providing us with a hint about the need to never give up on anyone. There are lots of ways to interpret it. What do you say about it all?