At the close of the liturgical year we turn our eyes to the Last Coming of Christ and to His authentic rights as the true king who wishes to reign over our hearts, over our families, and even over the temporal order. ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long Live Christ the King!
King of Mercy Speaks to the Merciful
But this King is also the king who at the end of the world will speak to those who had mercy: And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt 25:40) So we can meet this King in the poor and in the needy when we become people of mercy.
The King of Mercy is the Good Shepherd
The other way that we can meet Christ the King is when He comes to find us and restore us to His Kingdom. He does this tenderly but urgently, through His Word in the scriptures and His priests in the confessional.
In this meeting, we are the sheep–and to be honest–we are the lost sheep. What was it like when the lost sheep realized that he was lost? Suddenly it was strangely quiet and he couldn’t hear the other sheep…it was getting dark and he was all alone…he realized that something had gone terribly wrong, and he remembered his Good Shepherd.
St Ambrose of Milan giving Voice to the Lost Sheep
The fourth century bishop of Milan, St Ambrose (337-397) was a masterful leader of the Church, writer and saint. Though he is celebrated in his own right, many people associate him with having baptized St Augustine (354-430).
In his reflection on Psalm 118(119):176 (22nd letter)(“Seek,” he says, “your servant, since I have not forgotten your commands”) he develops a beautiful reflection on the voice of the Lost Sheep who calls out for and awaits the Good Shepherd. We share with you the text in English below; or download a PDF of the Latin and English texts side by side (Latin students! this is easy and beautiful Latin! enjoy!) voice-of-the-lost-sheep-ps-118-176-ambrose-lat-eng.
May this reflection accompany us as we reach the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and bring these lessons — of giving and of receiving mercy — into the new liturgical year.
St. Ambrose of Milan, In Ps.118: 22: 176
Quaere, inquit, seruum tuum, quoniam mandata tua non sum oblitus
“Seek,” he says, “your servant, since I have not forgotten your commands.” Come, then, Lord Jesus, seek your servant, seek your weary sheep. Come, my Shepherd, look for your sheep as Joseph looked for his flock (cf. Gen.37:14). Your sheep has wandered while you tarry, while you pass your time in the mountains. Leave your ninety-nine sheep and come search out the one sheep who has strayed.
Come without hounds, come without evil workmen, come without the hired man, who knows not how to enter by the gate (Jn.10.1). Come without an assistant, without a herald. For a long time now I have been waiting for you to come. I know indeed you will come, since I have not forgotten your commands (Ps.118:176). Come without the rod, but with charity and the spirit of gentleness.
Do not hesitate to leave in the mountains your ninety-nine sheep, since in the mountains ravening wolves cannot ambush those you have settled there. Once only the serpent bit in Paradise; there he lost his prey, after Adam had been expelled. There, now, he cannot injure. Come to me, harassed by raids of dreadful wolves. Come to me, expelled from Paradise, sorely tempted by the poisons of the long festering bite. I have wandered from those flocks of yours up on the heights; for you had gathered me too up there with them. But the nocturnal wolf lured me away from your flocks.
Seek me, since I seek you. Seek me, find me, lift me, carry me. You can find whomever you deign to seek, lift the one you find, lay upon your shoulders the one you lift. You feel no revulsion for this loving burden, no annoyance to bear it for justice’ sake. So come, Lord, since even though I have wandered, I have not forgotten your commands; I cling to my hope in your cure. Come, Lord, for you are the only one who can call back the wanderer and you will not grieve those you left behind; but these will rejoice at the return of a sinner. Come, that you may bring salvation to earth and joy to Heaven.
Come, therefore, and seek your sheep not through servants, not through mercenaries, but by yourself. Lift me up in the flesh that in Adam fell. Lift me up, [born] not of Sarah but of Mary, as she is a virgin incorrupt, indeed a virgin by grace free from all stain of sin. Carry me on the cross that brings salvation for the wandering, in which alone is rest for the weary, in which alone whoever dies shall live.
NOTE from the translator (an anonymous Benedictine nun friend of ours): Note: verse 176 is the last verse of Ps.118 (119), the longest psalm of the Psalter and dedicated to praise of the Law. The psalmist realizes that it is not the Law, finally, that can save us, but rather the mercy of God manifest in Christ. This verse is a magnificent preparation for the imagery of the lost sheep and the Good Shepherd, which Christ will use so eloquently when He comes.