24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Perfect and Even More than Perfect
(Adults, the Gospel reading this week is about mercy and forgiveness, both incommensurable gifts from God. The young child, not yet at the age of reason, is not ready to contemplate these particular gifts, but is readily able to enjoy the great generosity of our God. Although I have included a link to the entire Gospel, I suggest reading only the first two verses to the child.)
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus tell us that every time people gather in his name to pray, he is there with them. We thought about getting upset with our brothers and sisters or friends, but using our words first and then finding an adult to help. We do this so that we can gather together again to pray. We want to be able to pray together so that we can be with Jesus. We can't do that together when we are fighting. In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear that Peter has been thinking more about this. He has a question for Jesus:
“Lord, a brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Peter knows that he gets upset a lot. It might keep happening. The disciples don't always get along. He knows Jesus has told him to use his words, and if that doesn't work, to get an adult to help. But he wonders how many times he has to do this.
I wonder if Peter thinks about the Good Shepherd who,
having a hundred sheep and losing one of them... [goes] after the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:4)
If the sheep gets lost again, will the Good Shepherd go find it again? What if it happens again and again? How many times is the Good Shepherd going to go looking for that sheep?
Peter suggests the number 7. In the Bible, the number 7 belongs to God. It means perfect; it means holy. The number 7 reminds us that time with God is holy, that God gives us holy time. Peter wonders if 7 is the number of times to use our words so that we can all gather together again to pray and be with God.
“Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
Seventy-seven? 77! Two sevens side-by-side! How holy is that? Perfect and even more than perfect.
More than perfect?? That's abundance! Remember? Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says,
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)
Now we know how many times the Good Shepherd will find his sheep! An abundance of times! An abundance of times so that they may have life abundantly. He wants so much to be with his sheep.
Remember what the Good Shepherd does when he finds his sheep?
when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ (Luke 15:6)
The Good Shepherd wants everyone to gather together, rejoicing. Alleluia!
Jesus wants us all to gather together to pray so he can be with us. Amen!
So much life together with the Good Shepherd. So much holy time with God.
Perfect and even more than perfect.