The conversation so often begins this way:
“I was Catholic, but the Church hates me now.” Or perhaps, “I can’t come to Church any longer, I am divorced.” It might be, “Once I realized that I was gay, I knew that the Church would not accept me.”
These are variations on things that I have heard over the years, no more so than when I began to work as the parish secretary. People come in for mass cards, or to drop off religious items that they came across when cleaning out their parents’ old house.
You see, people come in for a simple transaction – our culture is transaction based. Yet, don’t we all long in some way for encounter? Relationship? Connection? I could quietly prepare their mass card or take the box of rosaries and statues, but I usually try to initiate some conversation.
Today’s Gospel from Matthew is a reminder that when just one sheep is lost, the shepherd goes looking. In today’s lingo, that might now work. Hey, it’s just one stupid sheep, I’ve got 99. Who has the time to go looking? Cut your losses and move on.” That would be the efficiency model.
Since when has Jesus Christ ever been about efficiency?
The Church, no matter what you may hear – or regrettably, experience, welcomes all visitors as Christ. Finding the lost sheep is never efficient. Sadly, it is not the sheep, but the welcome and love that has gotten lost so often. But that does not mean that we can’t bring that love into focus again.
Today, if you feel like a lost sheep, be attentive to your surroundings – you might just hear someone calling your name, seeking your heart. If you have a lost sheep in your life, and who amongst us does not, seek and find them if you can, even if simply with a silent prayer in your heart.