|Courtesy of Photbucket|
A few months ago, I was at a Catechetical workshop where we ended up discussing the parable of the lost sheep. Everyone in the workshop was a teacher, and one teacher commented on how unwise it was to leave the ninety nine alone. She said she'd never leave the whole class if one got lost on a field trip. I disagreed with her and said that is what chaperones are for: you line the kids up against a wall, tell the chaperones no one leaves unless they hear a fire alarm and report back anyone who so much as twitches, then search out the lost child, because that child knows you, and will come to you, while even the best intentioned child might be too frightened to respond to a chaperone he or she doesn't know (and a mischievous child will try to get away with more from the chaperone than the teacher.) Plus, I feel the loss more acutely, and am likely to go to places where I don't belong to make sure the child isn't being harmed (read "Men's Room"...I just walk in calling out "LOST CHILD: PANICKY TEACHER: ZIP UP!" I know. I should work on not being so shy and retiring). I agreed that I couldn't search the child out without the chaperones, but the shepherd isn't alone either, there are hired hands.
That provoked an interesting discussion. Some people didn't get that from the text. I felt the text said he was the good shepherd, not a hired hand, which implied there were hired hands to help out. Then something REALLY cool happened. A young man who had been a shepherd in Poland (?!) said it was common practice to have more than one young man tending the sheep for the protection of the livestock and each other. How cool is that? In the middle of about fifty people in a workshop in CHICAGO, there was a former shepherd to give us input into something we are personally clueless about and can only glean information from the text (but, of course, this was as everyday to the people of Israel back then as using a toaster is to us now!)
My point is that once we are back in the fold, and part of the ninety nine at some point, we aren't left abandoned.
I was more affected today, however, by the verse "And Jesus wept." That same Jesus who has stood toe to toe with his adversaries, not backing down one inch nor worrying about ruffling their feathers, wept when he saw Mary and Martha's grief. His compassion is so great, he feels our deepest sorrows.