12 September 2010 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 32, 7-14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1, 12-17; Luke 15, 1-32
The readings today are about how the Lord finds us, the stray and the sinners. The Gospel zeroes in on two parables about finding the lost: the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep and the Woman who scours her house for her lost coin. In both images of God as Shepherd and as a Woman of the House, God undertakes certain risks and sufferings to find a lone sheep and a single coin. The parables conjure an impractical solution: why would you leave 99 sheep or exert too much effort for a coin? But the point is very clear: God will indeed give up life and limb for every single sinner lost in the wilderness.
These parables are appealing to many of us. In fact, many are devotees of the image of God as a Shepherd who seeks us out. Identification is the reason why a growing number of the faithful tend to pray with this image in mind. We are lost some how and in some way. When we are confused and baffled, when we find ourselves struggling with our own personal problems which we can’t divulge publicly, we are like the lost sheep or the lost coin.
Alienation is a common result of today’s world. Surprisingly, when technology is supposed to bring us closer to each other, it has, however, contributed to isolation. When Facebook has made virtual reunions possible, it has also been the venue for break-ups. It is consoling to know, even romantic, that someone or Someone is willing to give up the multitude to find us. Even more, we are ecstatic to know that a particular has willingly taken the long and arduous journey to look for someone like us. It is indeed a blessing to feel that Someone “owns” us, or that we belong to someone who wants us too.
However, let me take another turn. We have been reflecting on our sinfulness and how we found ourselves part of the lost. We have made our own idols, like the Israelites who made the golden calf in the first reading. We have worshipped images who represents a god who does not exist. We placed on them a power which did not originate from them. Idolatry is indeed worshipping a false god. And thus instead of focusing our minds to the real God, our whole being has focused on the false idols of possession, power and popularity. When we believe that money can buy everything, then we have decided to be controlled by an idol that is not alive. Therefore, when we are habitually and repeatedly distracted by these idols, we find ourselves lost in the wilderness. This the way we stray from the fold.
This is then my point. If we find ourselves lost and we know that the Lord will look for us, I believe, we too have to exert an effort to be found. We have to create ways so that those who are looking for us will find us. Like smoke signals by those stranded on a remote island or caught deep into the woods. Smoke signals make it easier for the search team to discover their exact location.
How do we create venues that would make rescue efforts easy? Spiritual activities generally come to mind. By participating in worship, reflection sessions, retreats and recollections, we make it easier for the Lord to find us. By being committed and consistent members of a religious organization or a civic group that provide venues for altruism, the chance of discovering the Lord again becomes greater. This is the reason why all students are given the opportunity to experience living with the poor and the marginalize.
This is what Advent and Lent as liturgical seasons of preparation do. These seasons prepare the way of the Lord to our hearts. From these seasons we can glean how we can be found. By way of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by prayerful and meaningful fasting and abstinence, by keeping a general atmosphere of “recollectedness,” we are absolutely certain that the Lord will find us easily.
However, making ourselves found is not just an activity that we do. It is also an attitude of positive anticipation and trust that we WILL be found. It is, first of all, an attitude of hope. Those who have been lost, never lost hope. And they were found.
Second, it is an attitude of trust. The good thing about the Lord is this: you can be certain that He will keep His word. You will experience the Lord with a tug in your heart, a feeling of guilt and shame coupled with a desire to change. In the midst of God’s steadfast love, our response is not commensurate to the Divine love.
Finally, it requires of us deep reflection. When we are able to reflect on our actions that led to our being lost, we will also find the way back to the Father. Often, we know how to return. Since we are God’s Temple and Jesus the Way resides in our hearts, the way back is pretty clear and obvious. The road is paved.
We just have to tame our will to fully decide to return home.