Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Saturday, September 10, 2010
"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing
one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilder-
ness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.”
The Gospel called Luke, chap 15 [Gospel reading for Prop XIX_C_RCL]
I look at this parable metaphorically, as I do all the parables. Remember: there is a “cryptic” saying attributed to Jesus saying “they may hear and hear but not understand”. This reflects the early church’s view that people needed to be challenged by “strange” things, and be encouraged to look deeper within to see the truth. Jesus did this challenging constantly. Though, charmingly, His tender compassion for his disciples and their human dull-wittednesses is highlighted in that He chooses to “explain” some of the “strange sayings” to them!
I do not think that Jesus intended this parable to be understood literally. It is not about sheep and coins.
The parable (along with the one about the “Lost Coin”) is essentially about the Journey each of us must undertake towards becoming One with the Christ Within. The "sheep" or the "coins" are those dimensions of ourselves which need to be brought into the Healing Light. The Shepherd is - as would be consonant both with the Ancient Mysteries and with the Pauline and early understanding of the Gospel - the "Christ in Us", in other words, our Self, which is One with the Deity Within. It does point to the courage needed by each of us, and the trust and perseverance, to set aside those “spiritual”, psychological, emotional aspects of ourselves which don't need "tending to" but which we are comfortable with and which are of course easier for us to dwell with, and permit those aspects which need transfiguring to be touched. This is the work of the Holy Spirit Who, when presented with our honesty and humility, can and will polish them with Her holy fire.
Given that this is (for Americans) 9/11 – nine years ago today was the apocalyptic day of the airplane crashes into the Twin Towers, the Pentegon, and a PA field, accompanied by the stunning assault to the collective American self-concept, to which I hope we will never become complacent – this Gospel passage should remind us that, if we are called to make the “Kingdom of God” visible on Earth, we have a lot of inner and communal work to do. Hate, Fear, zenophobia, prejudice, the illusion of separateness, arrogance: all must be refined in the fuller's fire.