Chapter 18 of Matthew is often referred to as Jesus’ Community Discourse. This is the collection of Jesus’ teaching on how the community of believers should put his teaching into action and on how to deal with one another. First, they should humble themselves “like a child” and be concerned with the “little ones.” As they are not a community of perfect people, they should forgive one another, and seek to reconcile the erring ones with the community.
Matthew includes here the parable of the Lost Sheep to stress that those who have strayed must be sought out and brought back into the community, for as Jesus reveals, “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” Jesus himself sets the example: he is the Good Shepherd who prays to the heavenly Father, “When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost” (Jn 17:12).
Luke also has the parable of the Lost Sheep, adding to it two other parables with the same message: the parable of the Lost Coin and the parable of the Lost Son [the Prodigal Son] (Lk 15:1-32). These stories illustrate Jesus’ particular concern for the lost and God’s love for the repentant sinner. Christian leaders likewise are told to follow the example of Jesus: “Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it… Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock” (1 Pt 5:2-3).
GOSPEL • 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.”
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