“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, which need no repentance” (Lk 15:4-7, RV).
I am sure most of us have heard this parable. For many years, I believed the owner had a hundred sheep (Christians); one was lost and He went out to find it. What was troubling: He left the ninety nine. I thought, “Well, they did not go astray, so He left them. The more I heard about sheep, the more I came to understand that sheep are stupid and must have a shepherd.
Now, when I read this parable, two words stand out: “wilderness” and “repentance.” The “wilderness” associates this with the Church because it is the Church that goes through the “wilderness.” “Repentance” means that there are those in the Church who do not believe they are in need of repentance and some who knows they are in need of repentance. Another thing I notice is: “Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing near unto him for to hear him, and both the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’” (Luk 15:1-2 RV). Jesus is speaking against the Pharisees and scribes because they were murmuring. We will readily admit that we sin and are in need of repentance. The ninety nine need no repentance; or, should I say, they did not think they had need of repentance. Because they felt they had no need to repent, the shepherd left to find the one that did need repentance.
The question I ask myself: Am I one of the ninety nine, or am I the one who needs repentance? Daily, I try to not sin; I attempt to keep the commandments at the forefront of my mind. I also realize that a righteous man sins seven times daily—the “seven times” meaning numerous times. This is extremely disturbing for, at the end of the day, when trying to confess my sins, I either can think of a few or none at all. This very well could be that I no longer am sensitive to some sins, having become calloused, or that I am so full of pride that I have become hard hearted with regard to some sins. At least, at a very minimum, I am able to confess that pride exists in me and that I am calloused to some sins, praying that the Holy Ghost gives me the grace to repent and to bring to remembrance my sins. Just as the twelve fell into periods of unbelief and sometimes had hardness of hearts. This applies to me also. At the time, more than likely I do not even realize I have fallen into unbelief or hardness of heart; but I do realize that it occurs because it happened to the disciples. Therefore, I need to remember to confess that daily, also at the Sacrament of Penance, and also ask our Blessed Mother and my patron saint to intercede for me and everyone else. --TT