By Nick Sciarappa
I’m the sheep that doesn’t want to be found.
Reading today’s Gospel gets at the heart of my personal struggle as a Christian. I have trouble truly believing that Jesus loves sinners.
He loves them.
My problem germinates from how I subconsciously organize my sins. I separate them into two columns:
The first column holds the long list of sins that I can totally talk about with anyone. They are common and relatable with most people. I’m sure anyone reading this wouldn’t be surprised that I get angry, or that I gossip at times. These sins and others are easy to deal with, and don’t weigh heavily on my conscience. I’m comfortable with claiming little sins because I feel like I’m in good company with my peers.
In the other column are the sins that are horrible, the sins that I could never talk about. I’m referring to the sins stemming from flaws deeply-seated in my being that I feel like I could never fully be rid of. These sins are not only hard to admit to myself, but even harder to confess to another.
With all of my might, I hate my “second column” list of sins.
They linger over me both consciously and unconsciously. I want more than anything to end their monotonous, relentless recurrence.
Stubborn as I surely can be, I try to take on and eliminate my second column sins with all of my might, vowing time after time – confession after confession – to overcome them. I plan practical, spiritual, and secular strategies to get over them. I read self-help books, run to spiritual leaders and focus on the prize, thinking someday, I might overcome all of my many ugly sins.
I take it upon myself totally to find healing for my sins, and that’s where my problem lies.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the parable of the Good Shepherd. The shepherd searched everywhere for his lost sheep. The sheep, though similar to the other 99 sheep, is important to the shepherd. The sheep is so important that the Shepherd spends significant time and effort to find and save the sheep.
I think everyone wanders away from their faith from time to time, like that sheep. But for, me, wandering is a sign that I’m trying too hard to find Jesus… instead of letting him find me. I’m the sheep that seeks to find on my own terms, rather than the sheep who just lets go and lets Jesus love him.
The Gospel doesn’t boast the hard work of the sheep as the reason the sheep joins the flock again.
It’s Jesus (the Shepherd) that finds the sheep.
He not only searches for the sheep, but he finds and rejoices telling all his neighbors and friends how happy he is.
Jesus is happy to find sinners right where they are. He’s happy to find me, if I am willing to let him love me. He’s eager to find me, if I’m humble enough to admit that I can’t overcome any sin without him entirely. I just have to remember that Jesus loves and saves sinners of any kind, to any degree. All he wants is for me to welcome his love, and trust that he loves me: A sinner.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick graduated from John Carroll University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, and a Catholic Studies Minor in May 2014. After a short residency reporting for the newspaper, National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City he stepped away from journalism into full time ministry. He works at Saints John and Paul Catholic Parish as a Media and Marketing Specialist, and at St. John Neumann as a Youth Minister in Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys playing the ukulele and singing.