This is our second installment of blog posts from Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission (ESTEEM). Our February 6, 2012 post shared with you an introduction to ESTEEM and what it means to senior Melanie Papariella to be a part of the the leadership program. Today, graduate student Emmanuela Ohaeri will share her response to a reflection question prompted to her during an ESTEEM meeting.
Reflect on a homily that had an impact on your faith life and why did this particular homily have such an impact?
The parable of the lost sheep was one homily that I always struggled with comprehending and believing as a teenager. This parable, which is one among the trilogy of redemption, appears in Matt 18: 12-14 and Luke 15: 3-7.
Matthew 18: 12-14 “Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the nighty-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? In truth I tell you, if he finds it, it gives him more joy then the nighty-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
Luke 15: 3-7 “So he told them this parable. ’Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the nighty-nine in the desert and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over nighty-nine upright people who have no need of repentance.’”
The level of care that the Father has, identified here as the shepherd, was difficult for me to understand. I always imagined the Father as caring for all His children and not necessarily on an individual, personal, and intimate level. I understood God as Transcendent, but I did not fully comprehend him as an Imminent God. Once I understood that a “good shepherd” does not rest until all his sheep are safely with him, and I saw and acknowledged God as the utmost Good Shepherd, I began to believe in my heart that God cares about me specifically. He desires to protect my heart, my well being, and my struggles as an individual. There is no good I can imagine for my life that will be greater than that my heavenly Father has in store for me. He will not forsake me when I stray away through sin or neglect, though He has other ‘sheep,’ He will not rest until I am safely back in His arms and with His flock.
In the end, there is a particular element at the root of this parable that speaks to the Paschal Mystery and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is difficult to reason out and understand why the God of the universe would leave His throne and enter into human form, just to suffer a most humiliating death. He did this in order to save His creation, you and I, from eternal damnation, and love is truly the only explanation for this. Love does not act based on merit or value, nor is it boastful or proud. For God is love and He sent His dearly beloved son as atonement for our sins. It is through the mystery of the incarnation, the sorrowful passion and resurrection of Christ, that we are freed from the chains of sin that enslave. We are free to love without condition.
Continue to love one another as Christ has loved us!
-Emmanuela Ohaeri, Purdue Catholic Graduate Student