Sunday, September 15, 2013


Needless to say, I won't be posting anything here for a few weeks...
Pray for us!

   Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time    
I suspect most of you have seen the “Life is Good” shirts
which are so popular these days:
comfortable cotton T’s, each with a catchy, positive message.
In the past several years, three different people on three separate occasions 
have given me the same “Life is Good” shirt.
Oh, they’re different colors, some long sleeved, one short—
but the graphic is same:
a pair of hiking boots pictured over the phrase,
Not all those who wander are lost.
When three people give you the same shirt…
…maybe somebody’s trying to tell you something!

“Lost and found” is on my mind these days.
On Tuesday—as many of you know—
I begin my 10 day, 120 mile hike through the Adirondacks.
Map, compass, GPS, and an emergency transmitter
are all packed among the rest of our essential gear…
…but I still can’t help but be just a little bit nervous.
What if we lose our way?
What if we wander off the trail and get lost?

“Lost and found” is obviously on the Lord’s mind this Sunday, too,
as we hear the parables of a lost sheep,
of a lost coin, and of two lost sons. 
(Yes, two lost sons:
one lost because he wandered off into sin,
the other lost because he stayed
and wallowed in his self-righteousness.)

A couple points for our reflection…

Jesus makes it clear that salvation is all about finding.
Most of the time, we go on as if it’s all about us finding God.
As a matter of fact, exactly the opposite is the case.
Like the shepherd who leaves the 99,
like the woman who tears apart the entire house,
God is willing to drop everything
in a way that seems downright foolish—
even to give his own Son up to death—
in order to seek out and save us.

Can we honestly recognize and admit the ways
we’ve gotten off the trail?
Are we willing to let God find us
and—rejoicing—to lead us home?

while the terrifying experience of being lost—
whether in the woods or in this world of sin—
is an essentially personal one,
it is not at all unique.
If I can first acknowledge that I sometimes go astray,
and if I can also realize that I’m not the only one,
then I’m much more likely to be concerned
about others who’ve wandered from the fold.

Who’s missing when we get together here
to celebrate with a feast at our merciful Father’s table?
Who are the ones who have wandered 
away from the Church,
away from Mass and the sacraments,
away from the commands of God’s law?
If we never stop and take notice
of who else is here and who else is not,
we’ll never miss them—
and if we never miss them,
we’ll never go off in search of them.

As we celebrate our fifth annual 
Holy Harvest Festival this Sunday,
we need to consider the ways 
we can gather in a harvest far more precious 
than sweet, golden corn or juicy, ripe tomatoes.
There are so many souls just sitting there,
out in the fields of the Lord!
Knowing how living-changing and life-giving it is
for God to find us,
we must go out in his name and bring the wayward in.

I sure hope and pray we won’t wander off
and require the rangers to come to our rescue
while hiking in the Adirondacks 
these next couple of weeks.
But I’m so glad and forever grateful
that I have a patient and loving Father in heaven
who never tires of pursuing me, 
no matter how lost I’ve gotten—
happy to embrace me and welcome me back home!

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