HOMILY: ISAIAH 40-1-11; MATTHEW 18: 12-14


HERE IS THE LORD GOD... LIKE A SHEPHERD HE PASTURES HIS FLOCK... AND CARRIES THE LAMBS ON HIS HEART. This prophecy from the second Isaiah that so effectively suggests the concern God has for his people was well known to Jesus. But the Lord Jesus seems rather to have been influenced by Ezechiel's comparison of the Lord's tender love for his people to a shepherd's concern for the lost sheep of his flock when he created the parable we have just heard in today's Gospel. Ezechiel's comparison is rather detailed. He wrote:

I shall shepherd my flock and I shall make them lie down, prophesies the Lord God. I will seek the lost, I will bring back the scattered, I will bind up the wounded, I will strengthen the weak.... I will pasture them on justice (34: 15, 16).

What is abundantly evident, in any case, is that our Lord reveals here the personal, loving care that the heavenly Father has for each of his children. Both Jeremiah and Ezechiel make no explicit reference to the inner attitude of the Lord as he seeks and then finds those who had been lost, and speak of the lost as a generic group. Our Lord effectively conveys a more personal note and suggests more intense love by his image of the shepherd leaving the 99 alone and rejoicing as he carries back the strayed and lost sheep.

Growth in the spiritual life entails a two-fold development. As we advance, we are given a more elevated, more purely spiritual knowledge of God in his transcendent attributes. We gradually gain some fuller concept of what it means that God is eternal, infinite, all-powerful, loving. This knowledge, to be sure, will always fall short of comprehending God's nature, which will always remain beyond our full grasp even in heaven, yet it is a true knowing as far as it goes, and is the most precious possession we have, for it is God himself given to us. In addition, I must grow in our conviction that this infinite God has concern for me , because he loves me, my own person. We believe firmly that God is good, even that He is love. But that his love is personal, directed to me, insignificant as I am of myself is quite another matter. Can we believe this is indeed the case? Some of the greatest minds, Aristotle among them, were convinced that God is eternal and the acme of perfection, but for that reason, they concluded, did not occupy himself with human persons. It required a special revelation to communicate this truth. It was conveyed to some degree to Abraham and Moses and others in the O.T. Jesus completed that message and perfected it. He and the Father share the most intimate and personal knowledge and love of each of us. In st. Jophn's Gospel Jesus spoke of himself as a good shepherd who calls each of his sheep by name. He knows each and they recognize his distinctive voice. He and the Father share the most intimate and personal knowledge and love of each of us.


The Lord Jesus knew how deeply rooted in our soul are the obstacles to such trusting faith and that is why he taught this parable that presents the Father as one who rejoices over finding one lost sheep. The seriousness of the Father's love that is suggested in this Gospel passage is brought out much more impressively in the Incarnation. The coming of his Son in the flesh to redeem us by his passion and death represents the fullest possible proof of the Father's immense love for each of us. At this Eucharist we renew the sacrifice in which Jesus gave this surpassing proof of his love for the Father and for his friends, that is to say those who put their faith in him as the Son of God. May we receive the grace to experience this communion as a bond of mutual charity, uniting us personally with our risen Savior and in him with the Father who created us in his wisdom and who redeems us in his love, by the blood of his beloved Son.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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