10th December. Tuesday in the 2nd Week of Advent
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
(the beginning of Second Isaiah proclaims the joyful return from exile in Babylon.)
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
Gospel: Matthew 18:12-14
(The shepherd rejoices to find the lost sheep.)
What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
The Seeking Shepherd
There is a hidden part in each one of us that, when it is found by the Good Shepherd, will become God’s instrument to transform our existence. All the rest of ourselves will rejoice because the ninety-nine percent of ourselves will be changed by this one percent. The lost sheep is that buried, secluded or forgotten part within each of us.
A good example of a lost sheep found by divine grace is seen in the prophet-author of the first reading, telling of his prophetic call that originated in God’s heavenly throne room. God calls to the many celestial beings around his throne: “Comfort, O comfort my people!” The gifted prophet responded: “What shall I cry?” and then began a writing career leading to the composition of the most golden poetry in the Bible. Yet, for the prophet himself, the people’s return to their homeland, away from the Babylonian exile, turned out to be a way toward rejection and oblivion. His name was forgotten and his exquisite poetry simply added to the scroll of the earlier prophet Isaiah. He was like the lost sheep waiting to be found by the Lord.
The first Christians turned to this prophecy not only to appreciate John the Baptist who had prepared the way, but to find peace in the aftermath of the tragic death of Jesus, by recalling passages like chapter 42 and chapter 53. The work of the “Great Unknown” remained lost within Israel till it was found by the Good Shepherd. Then it brought exceptional joy to the other ninety-nine.
The lost “sheep” are ultimately found only by the divine Good Shepherd, Jesus himself. We look forward to Christmas when Jesus steps anew into our lives to discover hidden gifts, talents and hopes that can turn our lives around.