Jesus said to his disciples, «What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won't he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you: when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it than about the ninety-nine that did not get lost. It is the same with your Father in heaven: there they don't want even one of these little ones to be lost».
Though there may not be great human and material logic in this approach, it is how God acts with us. We are ready to die for the good people, but God was ready to die for us, the sinners. It is in this divine mercy that we invoke God with confidence. It is in this ardent love for His people, that God is generous to forgive us and take us back and offered to us the Incarnation. Today we are called to participate in the divine joy, an eternal joy promised to the people of God.
All the readings of the day invite us to understand this love of God and profit from it, by responding to the divine call for conversion and reconciliation. These scripture words are literally consoling us, if we are broken and disappointed. Just like Jesus who put everything in the hand of the Father, it is important for us too, to put ourselves and all that we have in to the hands of divine graces.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
A small seed produces a great tree, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
"Do you see in how many ways he leads us to care for our worthless brothers? Don’t therefore say, 'The fellow's a smith, a cobbler, a farmer; he's stupid,' so that you despise him. In case you suffer the same, see in how many ways the Lord urges you to be moderate and enjoins you to care for these little ones. He placed a little child in the midst and said, 'Become like children,, and, 'Whoever receives one such child, receives me.' But 'whoever causes one of these to sin' will suffer the worst fate. And he was not even satisfied with the example of the millstone, but he also added his curse and told us to cut off such people, even though they are like a hand or eye to us. And again, through the angels to whom these small brothers are handed over, he urges that we value them, as he has valued them through his own will and passion. When Jesus says, 'The Son of man came to save the lost (Luke 19:10),' he points to the cross, just as Paul also says, writing about his brother for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15). It does not please the Father that anyone is lost. The shepherd leaves the ones that have been saved and seeks the one lost. And when he finds the one that has gone astray, he rejoices greatly at its discovery and at its safety." (excerpt from the THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 59.4)
«Your Father in heaven (…) doesn't want even one of these little ones to be lost»
Fr. Damien LIN Yuanheng
Today, Jesus challenges us: «What do you think of this?» (Mt 18:12): what kind of mercy do you practice? Perhaps, we, “practicing Catholics”, having drunk copiously of God's mercy in his sacraments, could come to a point to think that we are already justified in the eyes of God. We run the danger of unconsciously becoming the pharisee who slights the tax-collector (cf. Lk 18:9-14). Though we might not speak it aloud, we might think that we are already blameless before God. Some symptoms of this pharisaical pride taking root could be impatience before the defects of others; or thinking we are already beyond reproach.
The disobedient prophet Jonah, a Jew, was adamant when God showed pity the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Yahweh reproached Jonah’s intolerance (cf. Jon 4:10-11). His human outlook set a limit to divine mercy. Do we also set limit to God's mercy? We too have to heed Jesus' lesson: «Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful» (Lk 6:36). In all likelihood, we still have a long way to go to imitate God's mercy.
How should we understand the mercy of our heavenly Father? Pope Francis said that «God does not pardon with a decree but with an embrace». God's embrace of each one of us is called “Jesus Christ”. Christ manifests God's fatherly mercy. In John chapter four, Christ did not make light of the sins of the Samaritan woman. Instead, God's mercy heals by helping the Samaritan woman come face to face with the full reality of her sin. God's mercy is fully consistent with truth. Mercy is not an excuse to cut corners. Yet, Jesus must have elicited her repentance with so much tenderness that the adulterous woman felt herself “wounded by love” (cf. Jn 8,3-11). We too have to learn how to help others come face to face with their mistakes without shaming them, with great respect for them as fellow brothers in Christ, and with tenderness. In our case, also with humility, knowing that we ourselves are “vessels of clay”.