The Joy of Being Found

3 November 2005, Thursday of the 31st Week
St. Martin de Porres and Bl. Rupert Mayer SJ
Luke 15, 1-10: The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

The lesson of the Gospel today is clear: Just as the shepherd rejoices over the lost sheep brought home, and the poor woman over the recovered drachma, so also God rejoices over the conversion of sinners. Having said that, I would like to note three things from the Gospel.

First, in the second parable, Jesus used a woman as an image of God. This may come as a shock to many but here we are asked to reflect on our experience of God as feminine. Many of us first experience God through our parents, particularly our mothers. In fact, many Filipinos are initiated into the faith by religious women. And therefore, we acknowledge the fact that women have equal and profound roles in our faith: we experience God through them.

Moreover, the shepherd and the woman sought what was lost. Hinanap nila ang nawawala. The highlight of the parable is given not to the lost sheep or the lost coin, but to both the shepherd and the woman. And furthermore, the result at finding the lost is joy. And this joy is celebrated individually as the woman, or communally as the shepherd.

I have three points:

First, we all know what it means to be lost. I had a similar experience a few days ago when I went to Baguio. An excerpt from my journal:

"Some things are blessings in disguise. I was not able to catch the bus to Manila, but I was able to put back into perspective my life, and more importantly, spent some time in prayer at the Cathedral. I was the last one to leave before it closed.

The priest was almost at the end of his homily when I arrived. I had with me bottles of ube jams and cookies for pasalubong, but the heaviest burden was a troubled heart. While I sat quietly at one corner, participating at mass, I saw things in another perspective: I once again felt how it means to be a member of the congregation. I looked around and saw different people at different prayer dispositions: to my left was a guy more disposed to his mobile phone; a little further from my back was a lady who was ‘speaking in tongues’; two pews from where I was were two old ladies whose lips move as they recite their prayers. I thought many of them had their own struggles, and most of all, they had tried to be holy despite the things that troubled them. A few days ago, I met a taxi driver who lost his only son, and a friend from my factory trials, who separated from his wife and daughter. I was one of them, like them in many ways. And from where I sat, I knew that God found them. And I also knew that He would also find me."

Second, God seeks us out. Many of us, while not being particularly great sinners, nevertheless feel lost. Our being lost does not stem from our relationship with God, but from our relationship with the world and with others. We often find ourselves suddenly isolated from the world; with all the problems we face, we become afraid. In addition, some of us spend our whole lives escaping from God through several distractions such pleasure, work and relationships.

The Gospel today gives us a different take: the perspective that God looks for us, and He will find us. There is a difference: iba ang naghahanap sa hinahanap. Iba din ang pakiramdam: kung TAYO ang naghahanap, at kung TAYO ang hinahanap. Ang naghahanap sa atin ay mas malalim ang damdamin sa atin: nami-miss nila tayo, kaya higit nilang pinagsisikapang hanapin tayo sa pamamagitan ng tawag, text, sulat, at Christmas cards. At labis nating ikinatutuwa kapag naaalala tayo at nahahanap tayo. At kapag sinasagot natin ang kanilang text, nagtatagpo ang naghahanap at hinahanap: ang pastol at ang tupang naligaw, ang babae at ang salaping nawala.

God never gives up looking for us. God seeks us. How? We feel that there is that thug in our heart ---may kumakalabit sa atin --- to come back to God, to make oneself ready to be found. In Filipino, we just say, "Basta ganito: Feeling ko na pinapa-uwi na ako!" We just know.

Third, the pivotal point is joy: ang pagtatagpo ng naghahanap at naligaw ay labis na kasiyahan. Ang misa ay isang pagtatagpo. Isang pagdiriwang ng mga iba't ibang pagtatagpo. It is a gathering. At each mass, Jesus renews His revolutionary gesture of welcoming sinners and eating with them. We are those sinners He welcomes so generously. It is not so much that we gather at mass, as we come to a party, but we primarily acknowledge the graciousness of the host who throws a party --- and spends for us. At mass, Jesus, the host Himself, welcomes us, joins us, and eats with us--- and spends for us by giving Himself as sacrifice. Happy are we if we know how to appreciate this kind gesture.

Our faith makes us a happy people, because the point of conversion is always related to joy. It is therefore very Christian to be happy when found.

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