Sunday, September 11, 2016

THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE LOST COIN: A homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday, Year C (Luke 15:1–10)

To hear the homily as it was preached see here.

We have all lost something, or someone, at some point.  It is a moment when we realise how important they really are to us.  To be sought for by another is an affirmation of how important we are to them.  A writer I follow tells the story about how he lost one of his children.  He has a large clan of kids and they were at the playground.  As he got them together to bring them home he noticed that one he was one short.  He recounted and recounted but quickly had to conclude that one, a daughter, was missing.  The clan was dispatched in all directions, calling out her name.  Other families were recruited and a frantic search unfolded until in the midst of his despair and desperation he stopped and saw her, sitting on top of one of slides, watching them all in calm delight.  He was filled with joy and relief though he probably had other emotions as well.
There was once this Greek philosopher called Plato.  He lived about 500 years before Christ and he said that our human condition was as though we are born into a cave where all we know are shadows and illusions.  He said that the task of the philosopher, once he had achieved enlightenment, was to return to those in darkness and draw them out into the light.  He warned that this would not be an easy task and could cost a philosopher his life.  The Church Fathers drew on this image.  Christ, they said, is the true philosopher for He brings Divine, not human, Wisdom and He enlightens us with the Divine Light.  He has come in search of us and leads us out of the darkness of illusion and ignorance into the brilliant daylight of the Truth.  All Heaven rejoices at each one that, repenting, leaves the darkness of sin for the light of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
It is Christ the True Philosopher who is also the Good Shepherd and He has sought us out to bring us back to the fold, to the flock of those who follow Him and He does so repeatedly for His patience with us in inexhaustible.  He may have to hobble us to get us to stay close to Him, to teach us obedience and patience but never to hurt us.   If he does it is because He carries us on His own arms that are stretched out on His cross. Christ wants us to learn the discipline that must accompany the freedom of faith in Christ, the freedom of the life of grace. 

When I was very little I lost my mother’s engagement ring.  She never let me forget. The ladies will understand that better than the men - how important one’s personal jewelry can be to a woman.  At the time of Jesus Jews did not use rings to symbolise marriage but a woman wore her wedding dowry as part of her headdress.  To lose a coin from the dowry was tantamount not just to negligence but to infidelity. It is through the Church that Christ ministers to the world sunk in evil.  The Church is the woman who having lost us when we sin has lit the lamp of prayer and swept out her house through penance and fasting in order to find us and she rejoices over our finding and our healing. 
It was not just to forgive and heal us nor just to restore us to the state of Adam before the Fall that Christ became fully and truly human but in order to lift us up into the very heart of the Most Holy Trinity and give us a place on His throne.  He did this by offering to the Father His own eternal worship through His suffering and death on the Cross.  In this way He made of His own Body the way and the Temple, the price of our redemption and the source of our salvation.  He gives His all to us by giving His all for us.   This eternal life already flows into us through the Sacraments.
All this is to remind us of what He has done and how dear we are to Him.   God has become human for us yet this was not enough for Him and His Love, so He suffered and died for us.  Suffered and dying for us was not enough for Him and His Love, so He gave us Baptism and Confirmation so that we could be truly one with Him.  This was not enough for Him and His Love, so He made His Sacrifice really present in the Mass and gave us the Priesthood to make that happen.  The Mass and the Priesthood were not enough for Him and His Love, so He gave us His Himself really and totally present in Holy Communion so that we could receive Him into ourselves.  Yet this was not enough for Him and His Love, so He gave the Priesthood power to remind us of His Teaching, and to wipe away our sins in Confession as well as to heal us with the Sacrament of Anointing.  He has even glorified the union of man and woman with the Sacrament of matrimony.  He is interested in every aspect of our lives for He loves us.  As He said to King Solomon, this and much more would He do to show His love for us.
Yet how cold and indifferent we are in return.  We are blessed in so many ways and how ungrateful we are.  How many of us count our blessings and give thanks to God even a few times a year let alone daily?  How many times do we go to Holy Communion without thought of Who it is we are to receive and whether we are fit to receive Him?  How many prepare properly for Mass?  How many neglect not only to go to confession regularly but even to examine their conscience daily?  How many have hours to spend in front of the TV or on the computer but have so little time to pray?  He is full of love for us and we are cold in return.  He laid down His life for us and we are so slow to give anything up for Him in return.  We are careless, negligent and unfaithful with sacred things, with the salvation of our souls and of those around us and worry and fret over things that do not matter and do not last.  We wander away from Him and make Him search for us.  Then we resent Him for teaching us the Truth and showing us to the way to the splendour and glory of Heaven.  We do not deserve Him yet He loves us and shows us mercy still.

Let us no longer wander but let us follow faithfully.  Let us no longer abuse His love, His mercy and His patience but begin to respond to it daily.  Let us decide to do the duties of our life out of love for Him who loves us.  Let us decide to learn more and more about Christ for those who love want to know everything they can about the one they love.  Let us offer any and every sacrifice we can, however little, in return for all He has done for us.  By these little steps we can follow in His footsteps to paradise.  By this way we can sweep out our lives and rediscover the faith and devotion to Christ that we have lost.  By this way we can be the means for others to be found by Christ and His Church and we can draw them back into communion with Him.  By this path we will one day rejoice with Christ and with all the angels and the saints in the Kingdom of Heaven where there will be no darkness and no tears are ever shed.

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