Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 96; Matthew 18:12-14
Today we read of Matthew’s telling of the story of the lost sheep. Unlike Luke, who places this story in the middle of a controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders, Matthew has it place in the middle of Jesus’s teaching his disciples about the priorities of the Kingdom.
Jesus has just warned his disciples about being a stumbling block to children who wish to be part of the kingdom. Teaching that by extension refers to all those who are vulnerable, as Jesus tells the disciples that they must humble themselves and become like a child. Being childlike is often a characteristic of the most vulnerable, in that they frequently display childlike trust and openness. To take advantage of that is clearly one of the worst things that any person can do.
On the other hand, to behave like the shepherd in the story is to make sure that at all costs the vulnerable are safe. It is to realize that there are those who need looking out for more than others, and to take any and all risks to see that they are protected. This is a dangerous path to accept, yet one that all and particularly those who are in leadership are called to travel.
During Advent we have the opportunity to reflect and ask, how can we make the vulnerable safer?