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Blog Post #10: 99!

Game | Gospel | Lectio Divina | Awareness | Revelations | Jesus

Sunday, September 15, 2019 by Carol Kurivial 

Ninety-nine! 99! $99! No matter how you want to say it, spell it, or notate it, it’s etched itself into my memory today, and my husband, Mike’s, as well.

It all started when we were introduced to a new game last night by our friends, Ron and Linda. The name of the game, of course, was 99!

It’s a great game. Quick! Competitive! Thought-provoking! We loved it so much we decided we’re going to have all of our kids over for dinner soon and teach them how to play. It’ll only take 99 seconds!

So, it’s easy to understand why Mike and I both had the same reaction to today’s Gospel reading from Luke 15:1-32. We happened to get to Mass 20 solid minutes early and both opened the missalette to check out the day’s readings.

As is my custom, I instinctively started doing the Lectio Divina thing and without a second thought, the words “ninety-nine” jumped out at me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. I knew it happened only because of the game we had played the night before. They jumped out at Mike as well, because he leaned over and whispered, “Did you see the ninety-nine reference?” I smiled and shook my head.

Jesus was addressing a crowd with a parable. “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? And when he does find it, 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.”

Ninety-nine! Not once, but twice in the same reading. This is just too coincidental. I was anxious to hear if the priest would make any reference to it in the homily.

And he did! Sort of, because the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Corbin, Kentucky (where we were visiting) told us that we hear this scripture reading so regularly, that some of us stop paying attention the minute we start to recognize it, because, excuse me, but, we already know the story. This priest, who we were experiencing for the very first time, cautioned us to not let that happen because there’s always something new and different to gleam from the same reading depending on 99 different factors.

Exactly! And I was living proof as I know for a fact that I’ve never focused on the "ninety-nine” thing when reading or hearing this scripture passage. Never! Not even once!

This got me to thinking about those 99 sheep that DIDN’T cause a ruckus...which got me thinking about the whole concept of 99% of people trying to do the right thing (if not for that one bad apple!)...which got me thinking about the frustration that 99%ers feel when a rule gets changed as a result of that 1%.

And, yet, today’s Gospel reading ends by telling us that there is great rejoicing in Heaven when that 1% finally gets on the right path.

Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair to the other 99%!! Which got me thinking about the fact that life isn’t always fair, but that, in the end, God will work it all out, and we’ll most likely be more than okay with His assessment. In fact, I choose to believe that the celebration will be SO amazing that we won’t care if it’s for the 1% or the 99%, and that while we’re on this side of eternity, we should always try to be a part of the 99% and/or pulling for the 1% to get back on the path of righteousness.

All of this because we played a game last night called 99.

God certainly does work in mysterious ways. And He never STOPS working. In fact, as we drove away from the church, there was a billboard with a huge $99. It was proclaiming that you could declare bankruptcy for a mere $99!

Perfect! After learning a new game and having a 99% homily experience, I actually noticed that billboard, and immediately decided that without Jesus I’m completely bankrupt. Thank you, Ron and Linda! We’ll never view the number 99 the same again!

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