The Gospel text of today is taken from the fourth discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, known as “The Community Discourse”. It is addressed primarily to members of Matthew’s community and not to outsiders.
The parable of the lost sheep is found also in the Gospel of Luke. The context in Luke, however, is quite different from that in Matthew. While in Luke, it is told as a response to the murmurings of the Pharisees because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew, it is part of the Community Discourse.
Thus, the concern in these verses in Matthew is clearly for members of the community who stray. The point is pastoral care and sanctification rather than evangelism and justification. The sheep that is lost is not more valuable than others, but has strayed and needs to be brought back. The finding and the return of the lost sheep cause joy. Every individual in the community is important and it is the responsibility of the community to seek out those who stray and bring them back into the fold. Mature disciples are to live their lives with the spiritual welfare of others in view. There is no such thing as an individual Christian. Every Christian is a Christian within community.
In a world in which individualism seems to be the order of the day, and when each is concerned only about him/herself, the parable of the lost sheep comes as a breath of fresh air. It challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and our selfish ways of living and live instead, lives that are other centered. It informs us that we are, each of us, our brother’s and sister’s keepers; each of us must accept responsibility for them. We are not individuals but one community that must be a community of concern for the other and a community showing this concern by reaching out in love.