Readings for Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 40:1-22; Psalm 96; Matthew 18:12-16
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms." Isaiah 11:11
I love the paradoxes in Christianity, especially as seen through the lens and tradition of Catholicism. By paradoxes, I mean those divine realities, scriptural revelations, and/or statements of faith that would seem to be contradictory, yet on further inspection, reveal themselves to be true. It is one of those paradoxes that jumped out to me as I read today's Gospel reading from Matthew: the familiar parable Jesus told about the shepherd who left his ninety-nine sheep on the hills in order "to go in search of the one that went astray." (Matthew 18:12) The parable of the one lost sheep is yet another illustration of God's great love and mercy towards us. For as Jesus says, God "rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray." (18:13) At one time or another in our lives, each of us has probably been the lost sheep that went astray. But Jesus is our Great Shepherd who goes out in search for us and brings us back to the fold. One of my favorite images is that of Jesus carrying a lamb stretched over his shoulders. He will carry us like that every day if we only let him.
Not only is Jesus our Shepherd, however, He is also the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29) Therein lies the paradox. For while He gathers, leads and watches over his flock as shepherd, he also offers Himself as a perfect sacrifice, an unblemished Lamb, in atonement for our sins. And while he goes out to find the one lost sheep, he leaves to the rest of us His very self to feed upon--His body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine--at "the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Revelation 19:9) We get but a foretaste of this divine reality on this side of the veil. But one day, the full splendor of this paradox will penetrate our innermost being as we participate in the heavenly liturgy in the world to come:
"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17
Let us continue to prepare ourselves for that day this Advent.
God love you.