At the end of today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus poses a question to his disciples: “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?”
Um, no, Jesus. Not exactly. The man would never take the risk of something happening to the 99 to find one. You have a flock of 100 sheep, you expect to lose one of two now and then.
But Jesus doesn’t think quite the same way we do. Speaking about this passage during his preaching of the spiritual exercises to the Roman Curia in 2000, which is recorded in his book, Testimony of Hope, Bishop Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan said
If Jesus would have taken a mathematics exam, he might have failed. He indicates this in the parable of the lost sheep. A shepherd has one hundred sheep. One of them becomes lost, and, without delay, he sets out in search of it, leaving the other ninety-nine in the wilderness. Finding it, he puts the poor creature on his shoulders and returns to the fold.
For Jesus, one is equal to ninety-nine – and perhaps more! Who would ever accept this? But his mercy reaches from generation to generation….
Jesus asks us to learn that everyone counts. Each one is infinitely valuable and no one is disposable.