12 December
Mt 18:12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

A neighbour long ago had twelve children, and when the eldest emigrated to America she was heart-broken.  That evening she said to the others through her tears, “It’s easy to count you now!”  (or, as she said it, “’Tis aisy to count ye now!”). That’s how mothers think: not in numbers or percentages.  That seems to be how God thinks too.

God doesn’t think in percentages.  The head makes distinctions and oppositions; it thinks in numbers and percentages. In Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, one of the characters, on hearing that one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus was saved, remarked, “It was a fair percentage!”  The shepherd in today’s Gospel passage, had he been working only with his head, would have found 99% quite satisfactory.  But he was working from his heart, which knows nothing about percentages, and he went searching for the one that was lost.  That's the nature of the heart. 

Compare it with the following, “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said [to the Sanhedrin], ‘You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed’" (Jn 11:49-50).  In other words, since it was politically expedient it was all right to put an innocent man to death.  Caiaphas was the high priest, but he thought like a politician, an unscrupulous one at that.  It should serve for all time as a warning to all priests, high and low.  And to every Christian. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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