Daily Reflection
December 7th, 1999
Todd Salzman
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Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalms 96:1-2, 3, 10, 11-12, 13
Matthew 18:12-14

“Sheep are nasty animals” Father began, pointing to the statue of Jesus carrying the one lost sheep on his shoulders.  He continued, “they are filthy and stupid, never obeying and going their own way.”  The polished beauty of the Holy Shepherd rescuing his sheep does not quite do justice to the stark imagery in Matthew’s Gospel of the parable of the lost sheep and the loving Shepherd.  Perhaps this imagery would have its most profound meaning for sheep farmers themselves who know all too well the vices of sheep.  As Garrison Keillor puts it, “sheep are fine as long as sheep do what sheep want to do, but when a shepherd tries to get sheep to do what he wants them to do, many people get out of the shepherding business.”  Thank God our loving Shepherd has not “gotten out of the shepherding business.”  That is not to say that each human being, “created in the image and likeness of God,” is on a par with sheep.  The point is, even in our weakest moments, the Shepherd is always seeking us out to bring us back to Him who loves us and cares for us unconditionally.

What are these weakest moments in the human condition?  While both Matthew’s Gospel and Isaiah deal with the reality of sin and God’s unwavering fidelity in spite of that sin, for myself, the tendency is to focus on certain acts, attitudes or habits that are part of my sinful life.  On a more profound level, the true sin of humanity, the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the only sin that will not be forgiven, is the sin of refusing God’s unconditional love and acceptance.  As Christians, it is easy to see our sin and, sometimes, even to let that awareness block out our beauty and uniqueness.  This, however, is the greatest sin.  The fact that human beings sin and stray from the shepherd goes without saying.  At some point in our lives, we are all the one sheep separated from the ninety-nine.  Oftentimes the greatest challenge is to accept that the Shepherd does, in fact, seek us out even in our weakest moments.   

In Isaiah we read, “…prepare the way of the Lord.”  This period of advent is a wonderful period of reflection, joy and anticipation.  Just as Jerusalem can rejoice in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise, so too, we can rejoice in the coming of the Shepherd who constantly seeks us out and loves us unconditionally.  As a close friend who is a Trappist monk says, “the ‘Good News’ is too good to be true, but true!” 

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