Sunday, September 16, 2007

About Lost Sheep

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C
St. Vincent’s Chapel 9:00 PM Mass - The Catholic University of America

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

Quite frequently my office is the last stop for someone in trouble.

No one makes them come they just find us.

Many times students find their way into my office because they’ve made some mistakes and they just don’t know what their next step will be.

Nothing scandalizes me… I am never shocked be it a pregnancy, or an arrest or the accusation of a sexual assault, drinking, pot you know the drill.

But for the grace of God there go any of us

Most of the time I just feel bad for them and the people that they may have hurt.

Sometimes part of what happens in my Office is the phone call home

If it hasn’t already happened.

And I admit it can take several meetings and lots of encouragement from me for someone to finally agree to call home. I never make anyonecall.

Sometimes the parents yell, sometimes there is just silence,

or they cry on the phone and we all start crying.

Usually after they calm down things work out

Sometimes all the parent will say is I love you I love you I love you…

Once a person was arrested for a very embarrassing humiliating thing which would follow them the rest of their lives

and that’s what the Dad said

I love you I love you I love you that moment was a radical turning point in both of their lives.

Only once in 18 years did that phone call end the relationship between the student and his parents. After a lot of yelling and crying and everything… the father said I’m done with you.

We called back… we gave it a few days we called back again

The kid sent a letter he used intermediaries and nothing.

No more contact.

Finally he moved into his aunt’s house and she kind of adopted him.

As far as I know and I talked to him at the end of last year when he told me he was engaged… there was no reconciliation.

I’m done with you…

I would venture to say that there are no words farther from the Gospel

than I’m done with you or

I give up on you

I’m done with you means

I just don’t care anymore

I’m done with you seems to whoever says them will not love anyomre

I’m done with you means you are no longer a son a daughter a friend a spouse or even for that matter a human being.

Today’s three parables The Lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son (don’t worry I only read the first two) Illustrate clearly without a shadow of a doubt that the phrase I’m done with you should never come from our mouths or find a place in our heart.

It should never be uttered by us individually or collectively by our society

It must never be said by us

because it will never be uttered by God.

I would say that even at the last judgment it is not God who says those words but us..

because God longs for all of us to be save, he wants all of us to come home.

God is sad when we say I'm done with you I don't want you or I something else more than you

Sadly though… Most of us in moments of pain or hurt or frustration have uttered those words

We’ve given up on people

Our society utters them all the time.

Frequently, drug addicts or any addict for that matter, or sex offenders, or embezzlers, politicians, heroes who make tragic mistakes, people who are pregnant, people who call themselves gay, the mentally ill, murderers, rapists, the list goes on and on.. all of these people are pushed aside or dismissed.. We right them off.

Collectively we say I’m done with you

Frequently we put a person in prison with no intention of trying to find a way to rehabilitate them.

It is like saying I am done with you… You messed up

Now you pay as if anyone could really pay for the crimes they committed

But we will not help you keep from messing up again in the future

Our goal is to punish not rehabilitate

And then there is the death penalty the ultimate rejection of a person.

When we execute someone it is like saying there is no hope for you…

We give up on you… We are done with you it is better if you were dead.

There are other ways that society can protect itself rather than completely giving up hope on someone. If we are going to be pro-life our defense of life has to be unequivocal.

It must be as Cardinal Bernadine said a seamless garment

And I know some of you disagree and I say don’t just stew in your seat..

Come find me and let’s talk about it.

So if a Catholic a Christian can never say I’m done with you

What do you say? What should a Catholic do.

The Gospel is pretty clear…

all of us are called to expend a lot of effort to bring people back.

To find the lost, To heal the broken

When the coin is lost the woman rips her whole house apart to find it.. she works at it all day and all night. Even lights a lamp

When the shepherd becomes aware that his sheep is lost he hunts for it at risk to himself

You know we have this kind of weird image of the shepherd and the lost sheep in our mind it is probably from all of those pictures of a shepherd with a docile sheep on his shoulders.

We think he just kinds of looks around and then he finds the sheep the sheep says here I am save me.

Wrong how often does that happen.

Sometimes the shepherd has to coax the sheep out with the promise of food or a better life

And if the sheep won’t come out or can’t come out

Sometimes the shepherd has to crawl down to where the sheep is trapped and lead it out.

And sometimes the shepherd has to put a fighting lamb on his shoulders and carry it out and he may even get crapped on or scratched up

because the sheep is afraid to leave fights the shepherd's help

The same is true for us.

When a friend a brother, sister, family member, whoever.. is lost

Sometimes we can coax them from their sin,

We can reason with them talk them out

Sometimes we have to put ourselves at risk to go find them

And lead them out..


Sometimes we have to fight for them over and over and over again at great personal cost
We have to literally carry them out on our shoulders as they kick and scream

And sometimes when we put them down they run right back.

And we have to continuously look for ways to get them back to bring them home

Sometimes we just have to watch and pray and fast and plead for them to come home.

We have to love them just like God loves us

With hope and patience and perseverance

Make no mistakes about it

The Church is not for saints

The church is for sinners and we are all sinners… all of us

And all of us have reason to be ashamed…. That’s why we are here

I can remember over and over again in my life how friends and brother priests have talked me down or pulled me out

Or on a couple of occasions even threw me on their shoulders kicking and screaming when I was lost in my brokenness or anger..

That happens every single time I go to confession the priest talks me down or carries me out.

The Church is so important because as broken as we all are

we are tasked by God to never give up on each other

And the Eucharist and the Word of God continually remind us of that.

When we are tired someone else will carry us.

And when they are tired or confused or broken or weak we will carry them

Humbly without pride remembering that we have been carried so many times ourselves.

Today’s gospel is so important because in our throw away society

Which is so quick to dismiss or give up even on people

We are called to be models of forgiveness, and healing and hope

We are called to look for the lost coins in our society

and bring the lost sheep home even when they fight us

We can never give up

There is no sin which would ever allow us to give up on a person

None Never Ever..

And we must continually remind our culture and even our Church of this profound Gospel truth

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not easy especially when you are right and the other person is wrong.

If you think that it is easy to forgive someone

to reconcile with them or to bring someone home

You many have never done either.

Lots to think

Lots to pray about


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