elder son

For crying out loud, it was just one sheep, one sheep that was lost. And the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes all out in search of that one sheep?

The Lord says, “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?” Well, I know many shepherds who, in their calculus of values, would rather sacrifice the one for the many. Let that one go, he was the black sheep anyway; he had it coming. Why leave the whole lot in the desert (in the desert!) while looking for this prodigal ingrate? Why jeopardize the safety of the flock in exchange for this one who was living it all up anyway?

For goodness’ sake, in the scale of things on earth, the loss is just one percent! Just as the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel is a measly one percent of the national budget. 25 billion pesos lang. Never mind if the unscrupulous help themselves to 40 or even 50% of this one percent. That one percent, mind you,is the grease that gets the gears of government going.

Why then be so worked up about this one percent?

Because in the balance sheet of the poor as it is in heaven, one percent is one too many. Because in the balanced equation of social chemistry, it only takes a drop to poison the whole well of trust and governance.That small drop of thievery, that leakage, is how evil begins and rationalizes and compounds itself. Cancers and hemorrhages, like lies, never begin big.

There can thus be no letup in going after the lost one percent.

If it only takes one percent to maintain a system of patronage that continues to consign us to slavery, let us by all means take that one percent away from the padrinos. Let us cut the fuel supply to the feudal arrangements that have long divided and impoverished us as a people.

If it only takes one percent to make us look the other way and forget our ownership of public money, then let us by all means renew our citizenship and reassert our authority in reclaiming that one percent and redirecting it to where it is needed most. To the poor, one percent stolen from them is one quite much.

If it only takes one percent to goad the greedy and unscrupulous to run for office and so entrench themselves in power, taking it out will separate the goats from the sheep. One percent is a small price to pay for greater statesmanship in government. The impact of such statesmanship can only be a stronger democracy and better lives for the most vulnerable in society.

From a somewhat divine perspective, if it only takes one percent for leaders to lose their souls, removing this one percent just might save them. In the grip of this one percent is actually a minority of souls who are so lost they do not even know or care they are lost. They who have been living off the tears and broken dreams of the poor will not even know they are already self-imploding. And so for the sake of them who have not shown mercy,taking the one percent away just might bring them to their senses.

So you see it makes good sense to go after the lost sheep, the lost money, and the lost son, even if this quest is more an act of mercy and love than anything else. The tax collectors and sinners caught a glimpse of all this in Jesus who sought their company. That was why they “were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,” much to the dismay of the undefiled 99%.It was Jesus who had not given up hope who was drawing near to them.

“And when he does find [the lost sheep], 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.”

The prodigal son came to his senses when he was aching for food that was meant for the pigs. Then and there he knew he was lost. Then and there he resolved to take responsibility and be taken as a slave in the house of his father. Then and there he was found.

[by Fr. Jet Villarin, SJ]

About Jet Villarin, SJ

Fr. Jet is a Filipino Jesuit priest and scientist, who is the university president of Ateneo de Manila University. He received the National Outstanding Young Scientist award in 2000, and the Outstanding Book Award for “Disturbing Climate” in 2002. He is also an active member of several local and international environment and climate committees, such as the United Nations’ Consultative Group of Experts for Developing Countries, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change, among others.

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