Reading 1 Is 40:1-11
Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 3 And 10ac, 11-12, 13
Gospel Mt 18:12-14
Today’s Gospel is the parable of the lost sheep, and it is paired with a beautiful reading from Isaiah. A message of comfort, and a message of purification. The Word of God comforts: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated;” “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” So often God is seen as the big police-man in the sky, waiting for us to slip up then to explode with divine anger. But God is like a shepherd: the shepherds were the outsiders of the Jewish community because they put the care of their sheep before even religious obligations. We are so important to God that even His religious obligations come second - but God doesn’t have religious obligations as it were; God puts the care of us His creatures ahead of Himself.
The Word of God also purifies: “The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” “All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it. So then, the people is the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” God’s Word goes before Him, and prepares a way to meet Him. The way of God and His glory are made clear through His Word. God’s Word pierces the very marrow of our bones, the flesh of man and his glory are as nothing before the Word of God. The Word of God is powerful, direct, and glorious.
How do these two qualities of the Word of God help us understand today’s Gospel? The Word of God is our Shepherd. We are led by this Word, comforted by this Word, purified by this Word. Jesus is the Word, and when He speaks he comforts and purifies. ”What is your opinion,” He asks. He asks because He knows that no normal shepherd would abandon 99 sheep to try to find one that is lost; only the Good Shepherd. Jesus’ Word purifies the minds of His disciples; no one is unimportant to God - and the one who is lost becomes His priority. This is also God’s Word of comfort: “…it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost..”