Share this story

Why bother with one lost sheep?

By Bishop Earl Boyea

Why bother with one lost sheep?

Jesus’ story about the lost sheep has always amazed me. Why wouldn’t the shepherd simply cut his losses and not worry about one sheep, which probably was already eaten by the wolves anyway? And besides, that shepherd could have been putting the other 99 in jeopardy. It is most likely those who heard Jesus tell that story had a reaction similar to mine.

Yet, there are some assumptions here we need to address. First of all, if we ignore the first lost sheep and we keep losing one sheep at a time, pretty soon the sheepfold will be empty and we will be standing around wondering what happened. Does this sound familiar? Every single individual who has left the Church is our concern. Perhaps we feel limited in what we can actually do to invite that person back, but we must do something. This is, in fact, the kind of zeal for the faith that Jesus wants us to have.

This leads to the next point. We are not seeking out that lost sheep simply to keep our numbers up. Rather, we are sincerely trying to protect that sheep from the dangers of the wild, from the sadness of being off alone and from the false allurements and temptations of the world. We also desire to share the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ, to whom everyone is called and by whom God desires everyone to be saved. In other words, we seek out the lost one because it is important to do so – life is at stake, salvation is at stake.

There is another point worth considering. We want that lost friend or family member back in the fold of the Church because we really love that person, as we know God does, and we need that person. The uniqueness of that person and his or her human dignity are true blessings to our community and we are gravely less without him or her. The Body of Christ is a summons to all to belong, and Jesus needs our hands and voices to help that assemblage to take place. We acknowledge the freedom of the individual, a gift from God, which means that another can truly say “no” to Christ. But we need to be God’s “yes” to each of them so that they know how deeply the Lord desires them for himself.

These are very tough challenges for us Catholics who have not been well-trained in being evangelizers, in sharing our faith with others. We also do not want to alienate our family members or friends or neighbors. Nonetheless, we need to find ways to witness to Christ, even if it is by prayer, by being a good example or by simply loving the other. We can also share this FAITH magazine with another person!

Jesus’ story always did seem crazy to me. It is clear, however, that he meant it, and that this missionary spirit has been given into our care. On Oct. 21-22 we will hold our second Diocesan Assembly, and it will focus on our being the kind of shepherds Jesus calls us to be. Are you, perhaps, being called to join us in this great missionary enterprise?

Find out how you can invite a loved one back to the fold: