Memorial of St. Ambrose - 7th December
Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5-8
Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness.
And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest.'
He summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to drive them out and to cure all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: 'Do not make your way to gentile territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town;
go instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those suffering from virulent skin-diseases, drive out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.
The imagery of Jesus as the shepherd is one I have always found beautifully rich. It reminds me so much of the famous Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Without Christ we are truly sheep without a shepherd. The shepherd is not something that the sheep can simply choose to be without, the sheep need the shepherd. A sheep without a shepherd is lost, just as we are lost without Christ. We need Him.
The parable told in Luke 15:4-6 reminds us too of the Lord as the shepherd: “Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost." We must remember is that God does not leave us when we are lost. Instead, He reaches out to us and calls us back to Him. Evil may tempt us to think that God does not want us back when have been lost, that He will not accept us, and tempt us to stay away from God out of shame. Remember when you are lost that God is calling for you, He is following you to bring you back home.
What rejoicing there must be in heaven when a lost sheep is found again!
Advent Advantage: Meditate on the love and the mercy of God, and on His role as our shepherd. Passages to reflect on: Psalm 23, John 10:1-30