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20 June 2013


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The lost sheep who is found, who inspires the rejoicing, is "the sinner who repents." I find it interesting that the Pharisees and teachers of the law only asked about Jesus eating with "sinners," but Jesus answered as if the question was "Why do you eat with repentant sinners?"

I suppose it's also possible that Jesus is eating with active sinners, because he is currently the shepherd out looking for sheep to bring back.

In that case, the interaction would essentially be:

"Hey, shepherd! Why is it that you'd not over here with us sheep? What are you doing out with those guys?"

"You guys are already in my flock. I'm out looking for lost sheep I can bring back and add to the flock."


I was sort of equating meal = feast = rejoicing, but you are right, it doesn't need to carry that symbolic load.


Due to the influence of a rhyming children's book I read growing up, I'd always thought of the 99 as being safe in a pen, but looking at the text, I see that Jesus specifically says in both Gospel accounts that the 99 are actually out in open country, on the hillside. Could it be -- I also know squat about sheep -- that the sheep who have not wandered will stick together?

Or it could be a story of the individual soul -- we are all lost at some time. No one is always the one in the sheep fold.

I read Francis's interpretation as you've described it in your twist, that believing in Christ and following Him is no longer mainstream, and that we must up our zeal for evangelization.

I've noticed, though, that Francis loves talking off the cuff, which leads to him tossing many things out there in a rather scattershot fashion. He's wonderfully down to earth, but one hopes that soon he'll publish something more systematic. Inspiration is certainly a function of the pontiff, but so is teaching and clarification.


I had noticed the detail about the 99 being left "on the hillside/in the wilderness" and I think it is quite significant that they aren't left in a pen. Presumably the "good" shepherd is not stupid and there is some reason for him to believe that the 99 will be okay while he's gone. That the 99 *who have not strayed* will tend to stick together (i.e., not "stray") seems plausible.

I wonder if there is something here in the metaphor about the Ascension: Jesus leaving the nascent church, i.e. a bunch of faithful -apostle-sheep, behind, where they will be okay if they all "stick together" (remain in communion with one another under one authority as the unified Church).

Meanwhile, in the post-ascension world, Jesus glorified can and does connect with individuals who are separated from the visible Church all the time, often bringing them back on his shoulders; the Church is full of their conversion stories.


From Wikipedia, "Sheep:"

"Sheep are flock animals and strongly gregarious; much sheep behavior can be understood on the basis of these tendencies. The dominance hierarchy of sheep and their natural inclination to follow a leader to new pastures were the pivotal factors in sheep being one of the first domesticated livestock species.

Furthermore... sheep do not defend territories although they do form home ranges.

All sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock, although this behavior varies with breed, and sheep can become stressed when separated from their flock members. During flocking, sheep have a strong tendency to follow and a leader may simply be the first individual to move.

Relationships in flocks tend to be closest among related sheep: in mixed-breed flocks, subgroups of the same breed tend to form, and a ewe and her direct descendants often move as a unit within large flocks. Sheep can become hefted to one particular local pasture (heft) so they do not roam freely in unfenced landscapes. Lambs learn the heft from ewes and if whole flocks are culled it must be retaught to the replacement animals.

Flock behaviour in sheep is generally only exhibited in groups of four or more sheep; fewer sheep may not react as expected when alone or with few other sheep.

Being a prey species, the primary defense mechanism of sheep is to flee from danger when their flight zone is entered. Cornered sheep may charge and butt, or threaten by hoof stamping and adopting an aggressive posture. This is particularly true for ewes with newborn lambs.

In regions where sheep have no natural predators, none of the native breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior."

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