Homily December 6th, 2022 

Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent – Mt 18:12-14

Today’s very short Gospel presents us with one of the best known and well-loved images that Jesus presents of God the Father: that of a shepherd seeking out a lost sheep. The scene would have been very familiar to his listeners, who knew how shepherds worked diligently to keep an eye on their flocks, and how sheep, in search of the sparse vegetation that would feed them, would often try to wander away, sometimes for great distances, reaching places where the sheep could no longer get up or down, and had to rely wholly on the shepherd to save their life.

There’s a lot we can say about God’s love as expressed in these few lines, but we could sum up God’s love in the following five characteristics: God’s love for us is individual, patient, searching, rejoicing, and protecting.[1]

First, God’s love is an individual love. Notice that ninety-and-nine were not enough; one sheep was out on the hillside and the shepherd could not rest until he had brought it home. However large a family a parent has, he cannot spare even one; there is not one who does not matter. God is like that; God cannot be happy until the last wanderer is gathered in.

Second, God’s love is a patient love. Sheep are proverbially foolish creatures. The sheep has no one but itself to blame for the danger it had got itself into. We usually have little patience with foolish people. When they get into trouble, we are apt to say, “It’s their own fault; they brought it on themselves.” God is not like that. The sheep might be foolish but the shepherd would still risk his life to save it. Men may be fools but God loves even the foolish man who has no one to blame but himself for his sin and his sorrow.

Thirdly, God’s love is a seeking love; His is a love that searches for us. The shepherd was not content to wait for the sheep to come back; he went out to search for it. That is what the Jew could not understand about the Christian idea of God. The Jew would gladly agree that, if the sinner came crawling wretchedly home, God would forgive. But we know that God is far more wonderful than that, for in Jesus Christ, He came to seek for those who wander away. God is not content to wait until men come home; He goes out to search for them no matter what it costs Him.

Fourth, God’s love is a rejoicing love. Here there is nothing but joy. There is no yelling, anger, or blows; there is no receiving back with a grudge and a sense of superior contempt; it is all joy. It is human never to forget a man’s past and to always remember his sins against him. God puts our sins behind his back; and when we return to him, it is all joy.

Lastly, God’s love is a protecting love. It is the love which seeks and saves. There can be a love which ruins; there can be a love which softens; but the love of God is a protecting love which saves a man for the service of his fellow-men, a love which makes the wanderer wise, the weak strong, the sinner pure, the captive of sin the free man of holiness, and the vanquished by temptation its conqueror.

As we continue our way through Advent, let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, for the grace to really believe in the love God has for us, a love that led the Father to send His Son to “seek and save what was lost.”

[1] Taken from William Barclay’s commentary on this passage.



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