Translated by Fray Emilio Larlar, Jr., OAR
A. Invocation to the Holy Spirit
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the words of St. Augustine.
Come Holy Spirit, by whom every pious soul who believes in Christ in order to make himself a citizen of the City of God is made holy! (En. in Ps. 45, 8). Come Holy Spirit, grant that we may receive the promptings of God, place in us Your fire, illumine us and raise us up to God (Sermon 128, 4).
With a willing heart, and with sincerity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing them to have an impact on you:
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them He addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Let us meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke:
The salt that loses its taste symbolizes an apostate and the lost sheep is a figure of all those sinners who reconciled with God by repentance. He carries it on His shoulders, because, by humbling Himself, He raised them up. He said that there were ninety-nine sheep that the pastor left at the open space, because they are a symbol of the proud, who carry in their interior a kind of solitude, wishing to appear as the only ones who, in order to attain perfection, lack unity. Because everyone who tears himself away from the true unity, pride tears him away; by wishing to be of his own master, he does not go after the unity who is God. Therefore, the ninety-nine sheep like the nine drachmas are symbol of those who attached to themselves, place themselves before those sinners who return to salvation. Nine lacks one to become ten, the same that happens in the following numbers: to the nine-hundred ninety-nine it lacks one to become a thousand, and to nine thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine one is lacking to make it ten thousand. The number can vary, being more or less, to which is absent the unity for their perfection; but they attain when that unity is added to them which, without changing, remains always identical in itself. To that unity the Lord binds all those who are reconciled thanks to repentance, the fruit of humility. (Quaestionum Evangeliorum, 2, 32).
St. Augustine in his Confessions makes a brief commentary to this Gospel texts with rich autobiographical tones: “(…) and we hear with great joy the narrative of the lost sheep, which is returned to the flock on the happy shoulders of the God Shepherd, and of the drachma, which is returned to your treasures after the congratulations of the women neighbors to the woman who found it. And tears flows from our eyes the joy of the solemnity of Your temple when it is read in it about Your younger son who was dead and live again, he had been lost and was found” (Conf. 8, 6).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may arouse in you the dialogue with God, and, at the same time, may elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not pass to the other phrase or question if you can still continue dialoging with God in some of them. It is not a matter of finishing this list, but of helping you to pray with those points that are most applicable to your personal experience:
- “(…) and we hear with great joy the narrative of the lost sheep, which is returned to the flock on the happy shoulders of the God Shepherd”. (Conf. 8, 6).
- What feeling doe this narrative of the lost and found sheep arouse in you?
- What elements of your life can be seen reflected in this Parable?
- “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” (Lk 15:6).
- Why does the Good Shepherd rejoice?
- What importance does happiness have in your Christian life?
I propose to you some points of affective inner contemplation. Once again, there is no need that you follow everything, but that you choose what is more applicable to your personal experience
- Contemplate Christ the Good Shepherd who searches for the lost sheep. Con-sider the care with which He searches for it and how finally He finds it and carries it on His shoulders with joy. Reflect above all on His joy.
- Consider how you are the sheep that the Good Shepherd has found, and that no you are being carried on His shoulders. Admit your strayed paths, ask for forgiveness, but experience likewise the joy and the confidence of being loved by the Good Shepherd, Check on the affections and feeling.
Think about everything you can share with those who surround you of the experience you have had of God, particularly with regard to being sought by the Good Shepherd and the joy of the Shepherd on finding the sheep. The following points can help you, as a guide in sharing with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself during this moment of prayer?
- How can I, in these moments of my life, apply this text of the Scriptures? What lights does it offer me? What challenges does it present to me?
- To what does this text of the Scripture concretely commit me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant feeling in this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
“He who searches for the lost sheep, knows not only what He searches, but also where to search it”. (Sermon 173, 2).