Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The sheep are insolent

[The Lord says:] The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”

So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.
From a sermon On Pastors by Saint Augustine, bishop,
Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours
I was really struck by St. Augustine's point about the sheep being so insolent that they sass the shepherd for seeking them out. We think of that insolent rejection of God as being something so modern. Yet there are plentiful examples in both the Old and New Testaments that this is an attitude as old as mankind itself. 

Of course, we need to be sure we do not become insolent. It is also a good reminder that I need to persevere with my loved ones who I wish to bring to the joy of knowing Jesus. They know not what they do, as Jesus said.

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