How does God leave the 99?

There is no such thing as the 99. We’re all that 100th sheep. This passage tells us just how much God individually loves us and it’s actually the Gospel rendition of my conversion story.

1 Like

Yes, same book. It is available here, free:

clink on the link to : Another practical manual for growth in holiness, The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange builds upon the work of many great saints.

He describes the process of spiritual growth in the interior life of grace, based on St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross especially, but many many other saints and doctors of the Church as well. There is a radical change in the soul of a faithful and generous disciple, in the “stage” or “age” of the interior life called the Illuminative Stage, or the Stage of the Proficients, when the Holy Spirit becomes an active Teacher and Guide in the soul - as promised by Jesus in several places in Scripture.

1 Like

Which of us have never strayed and aren’t in need of saving? Those are going to be the 99 sheep he leaves behind… but I doubt there have been 99 perfect people since the creation of the world. Probably not even 5. I can think of an argument that can be made for maybe 1, 2, or 3— but they just experienced salvation in a different way than the rest of humanity.

We’re all the one lost sheep-- all eleventy bajillion of us-- and he’s the shepherd who goes out to retrieve us.

1 Like

Which of us have never strayed and aren’t in need of saving? Those are going to be the 99 sheep he leaves behind… but I doubt there have been 99 perfect people since the creation of the world. Probably not even 5. I can think of an argument that can be made for maybe 1, 2, or 3— but they just experienced salvation in a different way than the rest of humanity.

We’re all the one lost sheep-- all eleventy bajillion of us-- and he’s the shepherd who goes out to retrieve us.

You might become interested in the book referenced above…

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan when reading this one. The 99 sheep which weren’t lost have already been brought to the Inn (the Church).


The sheep are not left in a pen but in the wilderness. Luke 15:4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?
The sheep are left in the care of the sheep dogs typing angels. Job 30:100 So we are sufficiently cared for in the wilderness until our shepherd returns.


At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost. (Matt. 18:1-6, 10-14)

Or look at Luke 15, which has the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. I think this answers the question “who are the 99?” The 99 are represented by the elder brother of the prodigal son:

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15:25-32

The 99 or the elder brother or those in the parable of the vineyard who were expect to be content to work all day in the sun and be paid the same as those who arrive late are those who believe and are the servants of God. They are the ones who don’t stray. What does the Father say to them? “You are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice…”

The 99 are those who “keep the rules” but also need to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect, raining good on those who deserve and those who don’t. They are the ones who love with mercy and bounty, not expecting more for themselves because they have been faithful. They’re asked to be secure in the love of God even if they don’t get the consolations extended to those who fall away and are greeted with great joy at their return. Everything God has is theirs, they have greater merit than those who strayed, but this is how they respond when they comprehend the glory of God:
"…the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever. They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:
“Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created.” Rev. 4:10-11

Whether you’re using the analogy of the 99 or the eldest son or the 24 elders, those who are depicted with the greater merit also, in the end, acknowledge that they, too, are where they are because of the mercy and gift of God.

The anger of the elder son shows the line the tempter uses to attack those who are more far advanced in the service of God. The tempter tries to ruin saints by getting them to think they have risen to the level of a quid pro quo with God–that they have done enough service to God compared to the bounty of God to them that God owes them good regard, that other people ought to recognize them, too, for how high God must esteem them for their service. It would be like the top students being taught by a trouble-maker that it is not they who owe their teachers and parents but their teachers and parents who owe them.

Likewise, those in the 99 who have the mind of God will be willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to regain the lost one for God, for they thirst for the lost as God does! Those in the 99 who are listening to the tempter, however, will resent the “attention” being given to those who have strayed. They have been taught to think they “deserve attention” and that attention given to finding the lost takes away from the “gratitude” they ought to be getting for accepting being kept safe and sound and happy!

1 Like

Yes! Thank you for finding the verse for us Bruce!
The wilderness part is probably what bothered me. Being left in the wilderness while he finds the lost. What is that a metaphor for? What aspect of our Christian lives is He referencing?

I think it references the righteous not resenting the “attention” that God gives to those who are failing, but rather thirsting for their return as God does and being willing to accept whatever sacrifice is necessary to secure their return. The 99 are those whose task is to remember to be merciful because they remember their righteousness is not their gift to God but rather God’s gift to them.


Thank you Petra! Something is settled in my heart about this now. I really felt that wilderness was about something important and it couldn’t be God abandoning us because that’s not Him.

Wow! You got a lot put together. Pray for me now that I may remember and live it!

Thanks again!

It sounds as though this thread has come to a satisfactory conclusion. I’d just like to add something that has helped me to understand the Teachings of Jesus and the New Testament, in general.

And that is, who is the audience that He was addressing? Or that the Apostles were addressing?

For the most part, they were first century Jews. And these Jews were living in proximity to Samaritans and other gentiles, whom they considered sinners and whom Jesus Christ was going to pardon and let into the Kingdom.

So, it is possible that the reference to the sheep left in the wilderness, could be the Jewish believers who felt that God had abandoned them to the power of the gentiles. they were governed by Caesar.

And God was now in search of sinners, which would include the lost tribes of Israel which it was prophesied would now be brought back into the fold:

Micah 2:12 [a]I will gather you, Jacob, each and every one,
I will assemble all the remnant of Israel;
I will group them like a flock in the fold,
like a herd in its pasture;
the noise of the people will resound.


Thank you. I wasn’t even thinking about who the original audience was.

1 Like

Every soul, every life is precious and important to God. Secure the 99 and go find the one.

There is a story of a priest missionary who was about to move to France. Those against this move said to him, how can you find any lost souls in France. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
His reply, God will lead me to the needle in that haystack.


That’s beautiful

It really is and its hearing has had a wonderful effect on my faith and hope.

God bless you

1 Like

Well, part of the point is that a real shepherd wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t leave his 99 sheep in the wilderness, just to go off and find the one that had strayed. Because then he’d end up with 100 lost sheep! But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does the unthinkable and the impractical in his desire to retrieve lost souls-- things that are ridiculous by human standards.

1 Like

That doesn’t sound quite right, since he words his example as “which of you, having 100 sheep and losing one of them, wouldn’t leave the 99…” Isn’t it a rhetorical question that presumed that anyone with an ounce of sense would do just that? It’s like the woman who sweeps her whole house looking for a lost coin. Who has time to sweep her whole house? Someone who needs to find that coin, that’s who. It attests to how a great effort is typically made to find something lost, when the thing is reckoned to be of great value to the one who lost it.

1 Like

I might be wrong, but I believe it is a metaphor which stresses the fact that God does everything within His Power (although not going against our free will of course) to united Himself to our souls.

Jesus finds great happiness in uniting Himself with human souls. That is why He allowed Himself to be crucified.

1 Like

I once heard in a homily that the coin was likened to a wedding ring-- it was part of the dowry, or part of something, and hence it had more value than just an ordinary piece of money. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it made that one make more sense— because I’d definitely turn the house upside down to find a lost wedding ring! :slight_smile:

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