09 December 2008

To Love Like God Loves

In today's Gospel we have the familiar parable of the lost sheep. It may not speak to the experience of those of us whose daily lives do not involve the agrarian chores of shepherding and care of animals but surely it speaks to our sense of the practical. It makes no sense to leave behind 99 sheep to seek out one lone lost animal. In fact, one might be tempted to wonder about the quality of the lost sheep if he couldn't manage to stick with the flock in the first place. This, however, is probably not our Lord's intention in telling us this parable. It is the unreasonableness of God's love that He wishes to show us. God loves us so much that he would leave behind the flock to go in tender search of any single lost soul. The parable does not suggest neglect for the rest of the flock; it suggests lavish -- and perhaps even undeserved -- love for each single member of the flock.

This coming Thursday in the Office of Readings we will hear a selection from St. Peter Chrysologus which speaks of a longing to see God: "Hinc est quod amor qui cupit videre Deum, et si non habet judicium habet tamen studium pietatis." The Breviary renders it loosely: "A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love." One could fill a page with translations and interpretations of "pietatis" but that ancient Roman sense of "responsibility to the God(s)" carried with it a sense of loyalty, tenderness and kindness. And so, if we desire to see God, to imitate that love with which He loves us, let us put aside the temptation to measure our love for one another by what seems reasonable to us. Let us show our love and our kindness to one another by being unreasonably tender as the Lord was when he went in search of the lost sheep. Imagine how different our families, workplaces, parishes, etc., could be if each person felt as loved and as cared-for as the lost sheep in the parable. Together, ewe and we can change the world, one lost sheep at a time!

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