The Divine Pastor, our Lamb of God
The Divine Pastor, our Lamb of God
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
From The Visions of Maria Valtorta (1897-1961)
Together called "The Poem of the Man-God" and "The Gospel as Revealed to Me"
"And your ninety-nine good sisters will rejoice at your return, because I tell you, my little lost sheep, which I have looked for coming from far away, and I reached and saved, I tell you, there is more rejoicing among the good, for one who was lost and has been found, than for ninety-nine just who never left the fold."
- Jesus finishing the Parable of the Lost Sheep, knowing Mary Magdalene is listening from behind a tree.
232. Jesus is speaking to the crowds. Standing on the wooded embankment of a stream, He is addressing numerous people spread out in a field of recently harvested wheat, which presents to the eye a desolate sight with all its stubbles. The evening is advancing. The moon begins to rise. It is a beautiful and clear evening in the first days of summer. Flocks of sheep are returning to their folds and the ding-dong sound of cowbells mingles with the loud singing of the crickets and the cicadas, an intense 'cree, cree, cree'. Jesus is inspired by the flocks passing by.
He says: "Your Heavenly Father is like a solicitous shepherd. What does a good shepherd do? He looks for good pastures for his sheep, where there is no hemlock or other poisonous herbs, but there is plenty of sweet clover, aromatic mint and bitter, wholesome chicory. He looks for places where beside good grass there is the cool shade of trees and clear stream water; he ensures that there are no vipers among the green grass. He does not look for fields with the tallest, lushest grasses, because he knows that vipers and harmful snakes and injurous herbs are quite common there. He prefers instead mountain pastures with shorter grasses, where the dew keeps the tender grass clean and fresh and the strong sunshine cleans it from snakes, where the air is fresh, light and breezy and not burdened and unhealthy, as it is on the plains. The good shepherd observes each and every one of his sheep. If they get sick he cares for them; if they are hurt, he cures them. He calls the one that is too gluttonous and in danger of getting sick. He calls the one who would get sick because it is exposed to too much humidity, or too much sunlight, and tells them to move to a different place. And, if one were to be listless and wish to not eat, he tries to find acidulous aromatic herbs to whet its appetite, and feeds it with his own hand, speaking to it as if it were a friend; that is what the Father in the Heavens does with His children errantly wandering on the earth. His love is the staff that unites them; His voice is their guide, His pasture is His Law, His Fold, Heaven.
Behold, here is one sheep that has abandoned him. How much He loved her! It was young, pure, innocent, like a little cloud in an April sky. The shepherd saw her with eyes full of love, thinking of how much good he could do for her. Yet she abandons Him. She does so because a tempter passed on the road that runs along the pasture. He does not wear an austere jacket, but a garment with a thousand colors. The tempster does not wear a leather belt with hatchet and knife hanging from it, but instead a golden belt, from which rattles hang, as melodious as the singing of a nightingale, and phials of inebriating perfumes ... He also does not carry a staff as the good shepherd does, to gather and defend the sheep and, should his staff not be sufficient, defending them with his hatchet and knife - and even with his life. No. This tempter, passing by, is holding in his hands a thurible sparkling with gems and from it smoke rises, which is stench and scent at the same time, and it bewilders as the sparkling of its fake jewels dazzle. He passes by singing and drops handfuls of salt, which shines on the dark road.... Ninety-nine sheep look and remain where they are. The one hundredth, the youngest and most esteemed, makes a leap and disappears behind the tempter. The shepherd calls it, but it does not come back. It runs faster than the wind to join the tempter who has just gone by. To gain strength in its pursuit it tastes that salt. The salt does enter into her and causes a strange delirium that embraces her. It makes her feel the need for a deep pool of greenish waters with a tenebrous thickness where, following the tempter it goes into, penetrating her; she rises, descends and falls ... once, twice, three times. And each time she feels round her neck the slimy embrace of reptiles. Wanting to drink, she drinks the contaminated water; wanting to eat, she feeds on herbs shining with revolting slobber that cover them.
Meanwhile, what does the good shepherd do? He leaves the ninety nine faithful ones in a safe place and he sets out on the road. He does not stop until he finds traces of his lost sheep. Since it does not come back to him in spite of inviting her with his loud clamor, he goes to her, where he sees her from afar, trapped in the coils of reptiles, so intoxicated that she does not feel nostalgia for the coutenance of the one who loves her; on the contrary, she mocks him. He sees her once again, aware that she is guilty of entering, like a thief, the abode of strangers, so guilty that she dare not look at him.... And yet the good shepherd does not tire... he continues... he searches for her, follows her, pursues her. He weeps over the footsteps of the lost sheep: strips of fleece; pieces of its soul; spots of blood; various diverse crimes; filth; proofs of its lust; he goes on and reaches her.
Ah! I found you, my beloved! I have reached you! How much have I walked for you, to take you back to the fold. Do not bend down your humiliated rostrum. Your sin is buried in my heart. Nobody but I, who loves you, will know anything about it. I will defend you from the criticism of others, I will shield you with my very person as a shield against the stones of your accusers. Come! Are you wounded? Oh! show me your wounds. I know them, yet I want you to show them to me with the confidence you had when you were pure and you looked at me, your shepherd, and to God, with innocent eyes. Here are your wounds. They all have names.
How deep they are! Who inflicted these very deep scars into the depth of your heart? I know: it was the Tempter. It is he who has neither staff nor hatchet, but who causes a lot of evil with his poisonous bite, and after him, the false jewels of his thurible, strike: the ones that seduced you by their sparkling, brilliant colors... which, in reality were stones of sulphur from hell, brought to daylight so as to burn your heart. Look! How many wounds! Your fleece is torn; it's bloody and has so many burrs!
O poor little deceived soul! Yet tell me: if I forgive you, will you love me? Tell me: if I stretch out my arms to you, will you come to them? Tell me: do you thirst for good love? Then, come and be reborn. Come back to the holy pastures. Weep. Your tears and mine wash the footprints of your sin. And I, so as to feed you, since you are weakened by the evil which you have burned in, open my chest and my veins and I say to you: "Feed on them, and live!" Come and I will take you into my arms. We will go with haste to the safe and holy pastures. You will forget everything that has taken place in this desperate hour. Your ninety-nine sisters, the righteous ones, will rejoice at your return. Yes, it is so and I assure you - my little lost sheep, whom I have looked for in far away lands, whom I have found and have saved: there is more rejoicing among the good, for one who was lost, has been found, and returns, than for the ninety-nine just ones who never left the fold."
Jesus in all this time has not turned around to look at the road behind Him and on which Mary of Magdalene has arrived, in the dim light of the evening, still most elegant, but now covered with a dark veil, which conceals her features and figure. When Jesus says: "I have found you, my beloved", Mary hides her hands under her veil and weeps, softly and continuously.
The people do not see her because she is on this side of the embankment, which runs along the road. Only the moon, now high in the sky, and Jesus’ spirit can see her....
translated from Spanish by Jan Paul von Wendt
Ecstasy of Mary Magdalene by Giovanni Gioseffo dal Sole (1654 - 1719); 1700s;
The Second Sunday after Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday - The Divine Pastor, our Lamb of God - The Parable of the Good Shepherd - From The Visions of Maria Valtorta (1897-1961)
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