In the teaching of our Lord which preceded this Gospel reading
you learned that we are to put away all carelessness, to avoid conceit,
to begin to be earnest in religion, not to be held fast to the things of
this world, not to place fleeting things before those that endure for ever.
But though human frailty finds it hard to maintain a firm foothold in this
so uncertain world, the Merciful Judge does not withhold the hope of His
forgiveness, and has as a Good Physician made known to you the remedies
even against going astray.
And so it was not without design that the holy Luke places in order
before us three parables: that of the sheep that strayed and was found,
that of the silver piece that was lost and also was found, that of the
son who was dead (through sin) and who returned to life; so that sustained
by this threefold cure we may seek to cure our own wounds: for a triple
rope does not break.
Who are these three persons: the shepherd, the woman, the father? Is
not Christ the Shepherd, the Church the woman, and God the Father? Christ
Who took upon Himself your sins bears you upon His own Body; the Church
searches for you; the Father receives you back. As a shepherd He brings
us back, as a mother He looks for us, as a father He clothes us. First,
mercy, second, intercession, third, reconciliation; each to each; the Redeemer
comes to our aid, the Church intercedes for us, the Creator restores us
to Himself. It is the same divine mercy in each operation; but grace varies
according to our merits.
The sheep that strayed is brought back by the Shepherd. The silver piece
that was lost is found. The son turns back fully repentant from his sinful
wanderings, and retraces his footsteps to his father. Because of this was
it fittingly said: Men and beasts thou wilt preserve, O Lord (Ps.
xxxv. 7). Who are those beasts? The prophet tells us: I will sow the
house of Israel and the house ofJuda with the seed of men, and with the
seed of beasts (Jer. xxxi. 27). And so Isracl is saved as a man; Juda
is gathered in as though it were a sheep. I would prefer to be a son than
a sheep; for a sheep is brought back by a shepherd, the son is honoured
by the Father.
Let us therefore rejoice because that sheep which had fallen by the
way in Adam is uplifted in Christ. The shoulders of Christ are the arms
of His Cross. There have I laid down my sins; upon the neck of that sublime
yoke of torment have I found rest. This sheep is one in kind, but not one
in outward appearance. For we are all one body, but many members; and so
it was written: Now you are the body of Christ and members of member
(I Cor. xii. 27). So therefore the Son of man is come to seek and to
save that which was lost (Lk. xix. io); that is, all men: for as
in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive (I Cor.
Rich then is that Shepherd of whose portion all we are but a hundredth
part. For He has besides the innumerable flocks of the Archangels, of the
Dominations, of the Powers, of the Thrones and all the rest whom He left
upon the mountains. And since they are rational flocks, they not unfittingly
rejoice because of the redemption of men. Let this also incite us to a
just and upright life, that each one shall believe that his own conversion
to God is pleasing to the angelic choirs, whose protection he should seek,
and whose good will he should fear to lose. Be ye therefore a joy to the
angels; let them have cause for rejoicing in your own return.
Neither is it without significance that the woman rejoices because of
the silver piece that was found. For this is no ordinary piece of silver,
upon which is the figure of the Prince. And because of this, the Image
of the King is the wealth of the Church. We are His sheep; let us pray
that He will place us amid the waters of His refreshment (Ps. xxii.2).
We are, I say, His sheep; let us seek of Him a place of pasture.
We are pieces of silver; let us jealously cherish our value. We are
children; let us hasten to our Father, Who with the Son and Holy Ghost
liveth and reigneth world without end.