Paradox of Divine Love

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Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church


Matthew 18:12-14


Jesus said to his disciples: “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”


Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, you wish to remind me that I am more precious to you than I can even fathom—that every person is more precious to you than we can imagine. Open my heart to this great truth and let it touch and change me; let it mold me to be more like you, to look upon this world with your eyes, and to strive to let you make yourself present in the world through me. Let me be found by you anew today; then send me out, too, to bring others closer to you. 


Encountering Christ: 

  1. God’s Love Is beyond Statistics: Were this a math equation, human logic would consider the loss of one out of ninety-nine to be an exceedingly high percentage rate. We might take for granted that something (someone) would be lost along the way. The shepherd’s reaction reveals to us the heart of God. Let’s just settle into this paradox: Not only does he leave the ninety-nine (so great is this one sheep worth to him), but he wanders up through the hills, down the valleys, and back up and around again, searching for that sheep. What does this truth about who God is say to our own hearts today?
  2. Precious One: This parable shows us that, for God, love is not about math equations or percentages. Each one of us sheep is all to him, and “all” are not a great collective, but a communion of sons and daughters in which each one is precious to him and each one is known. What can it mean, then, that he rejoices more over the one than the ninety-nine? Perhaps it means that each encounter with Jesus, each glance of recognition and acceptance of his merciful love, is something new; it is a new creation, a new moment of grace that exists now that did not exist before. Such is the creative power of God—a cause for great rejoicing in our hearts. 
  3. Not One Lost: It must be extremely important to Christ to express so directly and clearly the will of God in this matter: that not one of these little ones be lost. Let us take great hope in this desire of God’s heart and be renewed in strength and courage as we live our Christian vocation in the world. God desires that not one of these little ones be lost. Who are the little ones around us? How might God be inviting us to be his hands and his feet to go out in search of them, that, by the grace of God, not one may be lost? Or does he, in this moment of prayer, wish to remind us that we are his little ones? 



Conversing with Christ: Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd. You have laid down your life for me, and time and time again you have gone out in search of me to lead me back to your heart. Thank you for your goodness, Jesus, for never tiring of forgiving me and of leading my wandering heart to you. In these Advent days, Jesus, prepare my heart to welcome you, the Infant King, and give me courage and perseverance to bring many others to know you, too. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I want to recognize with gratitude the joy you feel when I encounter your mercy. May I receive the sacrament of Confession before Christmas Day. 


For Further Reflection: You may wish to spend time with Psalm 23 or John 10 in light of today’s Gospel passage. 


Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid and Valencia, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families and young people she’s there to serve.

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