How does God leave the 99?

I’ve heard the passage about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the lost one & always read it from the perspective of the lost one.

But from the perspective of the 99… What does this mean? How does God leave us to find the lost? I don’t understand that metaphor.

He has the 99 safe in the fold. They are not lost, they are found and safe.

Those of us who are in friendship with God, those of us who are in a state of Grace, are safe in the fold.


But in what way does God leave?

It is figurative, as He promised “I will never leave you, never forsake you”. We have the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Thank you for your patience.
I know he wont actually leave us.
I still don’t understand the reference. Sorry.

1 Like

It just seems like a powerful statement. Like there’s something important there I’m missing.

Christ is comparing himself to a shepherd.

A shepherd brings the flock into the fold, the barn, every night where they are safe from wolves and other predators.

The shepherd counts and sees that one sheep is still outside.

A bad shepherd says “stupid sheep, it should have stayed with the flock. I am going on to bed.”

A good shepherd takes pity on the lost sheep. He locks the other sheep up safely in the barn, does not go to bed but goes out into the dark (with no flashlight or cellphone) to search for that one sheep. One lost sheep is precious enough for the shepherd to leave his own comfort, to go out into the dangers of the night, to bring home that lone straggling sheep.


Some of the Fathers see the 99 as the Angels in Heaven and mankind as the sheep He goes off in search of (99 to 1 is seen as representing relative numbers of angels to humans). Via the Incarnation and Christ coming down from Heaven, he leaves the 99 in Heaven and goes in search of the lost sheep on earth.


Ok. Thank you
The powerful point I was inferring is his own sacrifice of anything and everything it takes to bring his lost sheep home. To many this may seem silly and not worth it over a sheep but we are loved. And that is love. To care more about another than yourself, even when that one couldn’t care less at the moment or caused their own problems.


Thank you. That he did! Very true.

1 Like

It just seems like a powerful statement. Like there’s something important there I’m missing.

I think what is missing is the 99 who ought to be “on mission” with the Shepherd, Who went on mission to retrieve that lost 1. The 99 should have been on mission with their Shepherd. The 99 are saved - not to be left in a “savings account” in the bank - but to be a part of the “rescue team” for the lost 1s.

It must be said, however, that the “rescue team” is a team that requires preparation and training - and maturation. Jesus told His own, after the Resurrection, not to go out and start evangelization immediately, but rather:

Luk 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
Luk 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luk 24:48 You are witnesses of these things.
Luk 24:49 And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then, they will be ready for the work of evangelization, and all the good works prepared for them.


How can we know when we are ready?

That is an excellent question, Opal. How I would like to hear more people ask that question, before they jump out into action - too quickly, even “prematurely”.

The disciples knew, when the Holy Spirit told them. He, the “power from on high”, speaks an unmistakable command - and a disciple knows that God has spoken to him.

There is a brief book of traditional Catholic spirituality that can be found still - It was originally printed as The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life, by Fr. R. Garrigou-Lagrange.
Amazon has it as:
The Three Conversions…
but you can find a free download if you do a search.

It will explain the process of maturation in Christ, very well. It can change your life, to learn this, from the saints of our Church, which is mostly not recognized among many, many “teachers” in the Church today, I’m very sorry to say.

The point is, there is no 99…

We’re all the lost sheep.

1 Like

Lk 19:10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.

Has He saved none?

1 Like

thank you for the recommendation. I like Fr Garrigou-Lagrange.

Thank you fide.

Thank you. This so important to remember. That we were all lost and dead in our sins.
We are alive not because of our power, but because our shepherd is so great. We are alive only because of His steadfast love and forgiveness. We are transformed only because of His power.

1 Like

You’re welcome… btw, the book is overpriced at Amazon in paperback, I see. Supply and demand, I suppose. The Kindle version is only a dollar - I’d recommend that instead of the inflated pb book:

> Kindle version

The book is freely available here:

click and read or copy to paste.

1 Like

Is this the same book fide?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit