What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance. (Today’s Gospel, Lk 15:1-10)
It is perhaps one of the most tender and reassuring passages from the Gospels for those who are lost or for those who are striving for holiness, and yet, who become ensnared by sin. What draws the mercy of Jesus upon the sinner is not only the fact that one of His lambs is lost, but that it is willing to return Home. For implied in this Gospel passage is that the sinner actually wants to return. The rejoicing in Heaven is not because the sinner was found by Jesus but precisely because the sinner repents. Otherwise, the Good Shepherd could not place this repentant lamb upon His shoulders to return “home.”
One can imagine that between the lines of this Gospel is a dialogue to this effect…
Jesus: Poor soul, I have searched you out, you who are mired and caught in the brambles of sin. I, who am LOVE itself, desire to untangle you, pick you up, bandage your wounds, and carry you Home where I may nurture you into wholeness — and holiness.
Lamb: Yes, Lord, I have failed again. I have wandered away from my Creator and what I know is true: that I am made to love You and my neighbour as myself. Jesus, forgive me for this moment of selfishness, of willful rebellion and ignorance. I am sorry for my sin and wish to return Home. But what a state I am in!
Jesus: My little one, I have made provisions for you — a sacrament by means with which I wish to heal, restore, and carry you Home to Our Father’s heart. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448
Lamb: Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit. Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.from Psalm 51
Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet… I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 699, 1146
Lamb: Lord Jesus, what are these wounds in Your hands and Your feet, and even Your side? Was your body not resurrected from the dead and wholly restored?
Jesus: My little one, have you not heard: “I bore your sins in My body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, you might live for righteousness. By My wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”cf. 1 Pet 2:24-25 These wounds, child, are My eternal proclamation that I am Mercy itself.
Lamb: Thank you, my Lord Jesus. I receive Your love, Your mercy, and desire Your healing. And yet, I have fallen away and ruined what good You could have wrought. Have I really not ruined everything?
Jesus: Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace. Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1485 Besides, if you do not succeed in taking advantage of an opportunity, do not lose your peace, but humble yourself profoundly before Me and, with great trust, immerse yourself completely in My mercy. In this way, you gain more than you have lost, because more favor is granted to a humble soul than the soul itself asks for… Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1361
Lamb: O Lord, you are not only Mercy but Goodness itself. Thank you, Jesus. I place myself, again, in Your Holy arms.
Jesus: Come! Let us make haste to the Father’s house. For the angels and saints are already rejoicing at your return…
This Divine Mercy of Jesus is the heart of the Gospel. But sadly today, as I wrote recently, there is an anti-gospel arising from an anti-church that seeks to distort this glorious truth of Christ’s own Heart and mission. Instead, an anti-mercy is being extended — one that speaks something like this…
Wolf: Poor soul, I have searched you out, you who are mired and caught in the brambles of sin. I, who am TOLERANCE and INCLUSIVITY itself, desire to remain here with you — to accompany you in your situation, and welcome you… as you are.
Lamb: As I am?
Wolf: As you are. Don’t you feel better already?
Lamb: Shall we return to the Father’s house?
Wolf: What? Return to the very oppression from which you fled? Return to those archaic commandments that rob you of the happiness you are seeking? Return to the house of mortification, guilt, and sadness? No, poor soul, what is necessary is that you be assured in your personal choices, revived in your self-esteem, and accompanied on your path to self-fulfillment. You want to love and be loved? What is wrong with that? Let us go now to the House of Pride where no one will ever judge you again…
I wish, dear brothers and sister, that this were mere fiction. But it is not. It is a false Gospel that, under the pretense of bringing freedom, actually enslaves. As Our Lord Himself taught:
Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. (Jn 8:34-36)
Jesus is that Son who frees us — from what? From the slavery of sin. Satan, that infernal serpent and wolf, on the other hand…
…comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:10)
Today, the voice of the anti-church — and the mob cf. The Growing Mob, Barbarians at the Gates, and The Reframers who follow them — is becoming louder, more arrogant and more intolerant. The temptation many Christians face now is to become fearful and silent; to accommodate rather than liberate the sinner by the Good News. And what is the Good News? Is it that God loves us? More than that:
…you are to name him Jesus, because he will save His people from their sins… This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (Matt 1:21; 1 Timothy 1:15)
Yes, Jesus came, not to confirm us in our sin but to save us “from” it. And you, dear reader, are to be His voice to the lost sheep of this generation. For by virtue of your baptism, you, too, are a “son” or “daughter” of the household.
My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins… But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”(James 5:19-20; Rom 10:14-15)
—Mark Mallett is the author of The Now Word, The Final Confrontation, and a co-founder of Countdown to the Kingdom
The Great Refuge and Safe Harbour
|↑1||Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448|
|↑2||from Psalm 51|
|↑3||Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 699, 1146|
|↑4||cf. 1 Pet 2:24-25|
|↑5||Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1485|
|↑6||Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1361|
|↑7||cf. The Growing Mob, Barbarians at the Gates, and The Reframers|