The Joy of Being Found
When we hear about the trial of someone accused of a sensational crime, we often feel torn. On the one hand, we want justice and a fair resolution for the families of the victims. But on the other hand, something inside tells us that we should let mercy triumph over judgment.
Today, Jesus tells the parable of a shepherd diligently searching for one lost sheep. He invites us to join him in the search, not in order to punish the stray for wandering from the fold, but in order to bring it back to safety. We understand that we need to be merciful, but we tend to miss the way our acts of mercy can set us free as well as the person we are forgiving.
In her book Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean recounts the story of a father whose child was brutally murdered. The father began with a strong desire to punish the perpetrators. However, he eventually realized that his thirst for vengeance was changing him in ways he didn’t like. Instead of remaining a kind and generous person, he was becoming wary and hateful. He realized that he shouldn’t give a wrongdoer so much power over him. So he began his journey toward forgiveness by interceding for the perpetrators every day and by reaching out to their hurting family. Over time, he saw his own heart soften and his faith grow dramatically.
Aligning ourselves with the Good Shepherd doesn’t always come naturally. Very small children already express a keen awareness of unfairness, especially if they feel they’ve been wronged. They quickly place conditions on their forgiveness: I’ll forgive him only if he asks, if I believe he’s truly sorry for what he did, and if he tries to make it up to me. In other words, I’ll stay here in the sheepcote with my arms folded and wait for him to turn around and come home, humbled and repentant.
You can just imagine the Good Shepherd shaking his head at such behavior. He wants us to forgive unconditionally, just as he forgives us. He knows that as we take small steps in imitation of him, our own straying hearts will change.
“Thank you, Lord, for your great mercy. Please help me extend forgiveness to your other undeserving sheep.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)