With very little thought and because of long experience, we can certainly relate to a strong theme running through today’s liturgical readings: they are about the lost and found.
The Israelites in the first reading are already on their way to the promised land when they become lost in their thinking and actions. They forgot God’s promise, lost their mental compass and acted in ways contrary to God’s call. It wasn’t easy to admit they were lost, but they did, and found their way again.
Paul, writing to Timothy, tells how before his conversion to Christ he was lost in the conviction that it was right to persecute Christians. But Christ found him.
And in the Gospel, Jesus tells stories about a shepherd, a woman and a father, all of whom lost someone, something precious to them. In each case, direction was found and people were found. There was celebration and life continued.
But celebrations do not always follow great loss, and the looked-for are not always found whole, if at all.
A few days ago, we commemorated 9/11. In those awful hours and days after the terrorist strikes, rescue workers and families searched for the lost. Sometimes, someone was found alive and the word went out in the news and there was great rejoicing. In many cases, the lost had to be commended to God’s love. They would not be found this side of eternity and we grieved.
As Americans, we can relate so well to Bahamians mourning after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. People have disappeared. Homes were destroyed. Lost. Hopefully, life will be new-found in the future.
The international and national stories that mirror our readings go on. So do the experiences of our own lives. Will we be like God, the shepherd, the woman, the father and seek the lost in our own lives? Will we seek the lost in ourselves – our integrity, the personal growth that we put on the back burner, our zeal for the things of God, the ideas and dreams that motivated us. In many instances, loss is an unfinished reality in us.
What then? Then, faith encourages us to turn to our God and ask:
“Where are you, God? Are you with me or not?”
And the answer comes:
“My dear One, don’t you know I want the lost? I search. I wait. I find. What seems lost to you is never lost to me. I know that you cannot rejoice over what you have lost and not found again, but someday, when my kingdom is present in its fullness and the pieces of the story are in place, when the reunions with loved ones and real and true, then you will rejoice. For now, hope in me. I hold your treasured ones close. I hold you close, when confusion and misery threaten t swamp you. Try to be steadfast. I am with you.”
~Sister Joan Sobala