“Take care that you do not despise (μὴ καταφρονήσητε) one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Mt 18: 10-13)
Who are “these little ones” Christ is warning us not to “despise” (καταφρονέω, literally to think down upon, i.e. to look down upon)? On the basis of the preceding verses of this chapter, we might think He means only children, as well as those who are humble “like children” (Mt 18: 4). But as cited above, by “little ones” He also means sheep that have “gone astray” somehow, and therefore need the special attention of the shepherd.
So He means me. And anyone else who, on a daily basis, tends to “go astray” like a wandering little sheep and needs Christ’s help to get back on track. The Lord is willing to go to the trouble, for each and every one of us. And no matter how, or how often, we “go astray,” He still has His angels caring for us; our angels, who “continually see the face of His Father in heaven.” Are we, the often-lost sheep, really worth that kind of attention and trouble? Yes. Because we are His. And because through the learning-process of our own, particular shortcomings; of falling or straying, and then getting up or coming back, with God’s help, each of us becomes uniquely useful to Him and other “little ones,” who might need a helping hand in their journey.
So let me continue my journey of the Nativity Fast today, with His help and in His grace. Because my God is a God Who identifies me as His, through the ups and downs. “The Lord is my shepherd,” I am gratefully reminded today; “I shall not want.” (Ps 22/23: 1)