The Joy of the 99

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Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Being a disciple of Christ means being always for the Other.

The problem is we often do not like the other. The mere thought of putting someone else first repulses us. We think it means we will lose out. Our culture is steeped in the ‘me’ and has promoted for decades that ‘I’ come first. It is a societal belief that we have to look out for ourselves because no one else will. Especially in the United States, where clichés such as “Looking out for number one,” “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps,” and “ God takes care of those who take care of themselves,” is the power that drives the engine of our culture. We may serve homeless meals to the sick, we may visit seniors in nursing homes, but if we are honest with ourselves, we still view these people as separate from us.

But this is not how disciples of Christ are to be. We are to be one with our brothers and sisters, no matter how annoying or repulsive. This is our calling. I confess, I have often fallen short of this call.

I love the idea of just Jesus and me. I love thinking of myself as the lost sheep in the Gospel (Lk 15:1-7). I imagine our Lord searching through the thorns of my life and scooping me up. There I am safe and secure on His strong shoulders high above those other smelly sheep. I am afraid if He puts me down and looks for another, He will forget about me.

Thanks to one of the treasures of our Catholic faith, the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I am growing into our Christian calling. In a prayer series based on the exercises called, Lord, Teach Me to Pray, a group of women and myself weekly share about our personal prayer life. Each day we are given Scripture or a mediation to pray alone with God from between 15 to 60 minutes.

Once a week, we gather as a group and share what has happened in our personal prayer life, our daily encounters with Christ. We do not comment on each other’s sharing; we only share what the Holy Spirit is doing in our own life. This dynamic is transforming as it offers the freedom to witness and share faults, sinfulness and weakness in the Light of God’s Love. We discover the joy of the 99 sheep that brings us closer to Christ and to each other as we realize every single one of us is infinitely and personally loved – and every single one of us smells! We discover that though He constantly searches for the lost, He never takes His gaze off of us, His found.

None of this is possible without encountering each other and ourselves in Christ through a daily time devoted to personal prayer. In a culture that loves to separate, it is imperative that we spend each and every day talking with God who desires only to bring us all together as one. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are just one of the many ways our Catholic faith offers encounters with Christ.

I want to share Consuelo’s testimony from this year’s Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference. I am so encouraged by her story of how she brought her obstacle to ‘being repulsed by the other’ to prayer and discovered in this encounter with Christ, the beauty of the 99.  Here is her story

To learn more about Lord, Teach Me to Prayer, go to lordteachmetopray.com.

To learn more about the variety of ways the Pilgrim Center of Hope answers the call to the New Evangelization by providing encounters with Christ, visit us at pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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About Nan Balfour

Coordinator for the annual Catholic Women's Conference, an apostolate of the Pilgrim Center of Hope - Catholic evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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