Lost and Found

6 November 2008 Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Phil 3, 3-8; Psalm 105; Luke 15, 1-10 Lost and Found

The two parables are bound together by the theme of joy over finding what was lost. The faithful shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep and looked for the lost one. The woman who lost one of her ten drachmas (Greek silver coins), turned her house upside down to search it. Perhaps, many scholars would say, the coins were part of her dowry, thus she must have placed some sentimental value on the coins. And when both woman and shepherd found what was lost, they celebrated with the community. The joy was too much to bear personally, so they have to share it to their friends.

The parables are fantastic. If you read closely and reflect, we wouldn’t do what the shepherd and the woman did. It is beyond the boundaries of reason and good business. Why would you leave the 99 sheep in the desert, vulnerable to wolves, and look for the one lost sheep? You are endangering the majority. Why would you turn everything in the house for just one coin?

But the parable’s extravagant point is very attractive that we are led to agree: the individual concern is lavish and high-priced. For such love to that one individual sheep, the shepherd has put all the rest of the flock at risk. For the woman who placed a ‘greater value’ on the coin, she was willing to endure the discomfort and inconvenience of putting every single furniture back again.

We are drawn to this particular kind of love. It has been depicted by many romance books and films. It is a love that is heroic, almost unreasonable in its sacrifice. The parable then draws us to see as God sees and to feel as God feels. His love for us is indeed extravagant, almost foolish. Why would God suffer for mere creatures as us? We can argue: are the ninety-nine sheep and the nine coins not important? I guess, they are important. The point though is not that.

The focus is God’s love who seeks us out. God does not need us. God does not have to do it. But, still He decided to search for us. He rejoices when He finds those who are lost.

Often, we think when we find ourselves lost in the world, undecided over what course to take, confused about our lives, we think it is only ourselves who can clarify what seems to be murky. But the more we grope for answers and explanations, the more we become perplexed. It is like a child lost in the grocery store. The child must have looked for his mother among the stacks of goods, but the more he ventures deep into the shelves, the more he goes further.

For example, we would like to be certain that the choices we are about to make is the right one for us. Like the child in the grocery store, we could gather information about each of the options. This is important for correct discernment. But the bad news is this: there is no assurance which among the multiple options is the right one for us. In other words, there is no clear and certain answer to the question: How would I know if I made the right choice? No one knows the future; no one can predict the future. If we could, we do not need to choose.

The course of action is simple: JUST DO IT. Just choose which among the options is likely to be right, using known objective data and the knowledge about ourselves. But the choosing can be bearable when we are assured that no matter what, we have Someone who holds us dear. This is the experience of being found. We are assured by the embrace of the One who finds us. Remember the parable is about the initiative of the shepherd who looks for the sheep. Not the sheep, finding its master. 

When found, we find ourselves at peace. For people who finally found themselves in a vocation or in a profession, they mark the occasion with a commitment ceremony like religious or private vows or marriage. They call their families and friends to rejoice and celebrate with them. Hundreds of years ago, Jesus said that the shepherd and the woman celebrated discovery. And those who were found began a new life.

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