Sunday, September 15, 2013

God wants you!

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a theme running through all of our readings from sacred scripture today – and that theme is the lengths that God will go to correct his children when they stray from his ways and bring them back to him.

The prophet Jeremiah is typically blunt: the people are skilled at doing evil, but they do not know how to do good. God will bring desolation upon the land, but he will not annihilate it. The people will be punished for their transgressions, but God will not destroy them utterly, because, as always, his purposed is to correct his wayward children.

The Apostle St Paul tells his personal story of the terrible things he did oppressing those who had faith in Christ. Yet for all the evil things that he did, God was merciful and brought him to faith. We all know the story of how that happened – Paul had the original 'road to Damascus moment', one that left him blind for many days. But out of that suffering came an even greater faith in God, and the most memorable ministries of the early Church.

And then there is our Gospel reading – first the parable of the lost sheep, and then the parable of the lost coin. In each, of course, what is missing represents those people who have lost their way in this life, and strayed from the path that God has laid before them, the path he has laid before us all. And the searcher represents God, and the painstaking lengths he will go to find the one who is lost.

Consider the lost coin. The lamp is lit, every corner of the house – the house representing the world – is swept. And note well when the sweeping stops: only when the coin is found. The implication being that the search will go on and on and on until what is lost is found. And we are told how precious what is lost is to the seeker, not only from the endless effort that goes into the search, but also the great joy that results when it is finally found.

It is the same with the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves behind the rest of the flock and goes out into the wilderness to search – indicating again how precious that what is lost is – for if it were not, the shepherd would not risk leaving the rest unattended, nor brave the dangers of the wilderness. Again the search continues until what is lost is found. And again the joy is great when the lost sheep finally is returned to the fold.

There is something else these readings have in common too: in all of them the initiative comes from God. The Israelites do not ask God to send them his prophet – indeed, as we know from scripture, they treated Jeremiah very badly for speaking the word of God. He was beaten, imprisoned, thrown down a well, threatened with death.
And neither did St Paul ask for what happened to him. He had no interest in having his eyes opened to the truth of the Gospel message. Indeed, he already thought he was doing God's work by persecuting the Christians. 

And certainly in our parables, it is God, the one who seeks, who initiates action; indeed, Christ has chosen in his parables a coin and a sheep, both of which are incapable of asking for help, of asking to be found, to represent poor sinners like us.

And despite the fact that no one asks him to seek them out and bring them back to his ways, God does anyway. Why – because it is who he is; he is love; the creator who made his creatures to be with him; he will not simply create us and then abandon us to go our own way; for if he did that, we would surely be lost; and to be lost is to loose forever all hope of eternal life. 

He doesn't wait for us to cry out for help before he offers it; and he doesn't ask our permission before he offers us eternal life. Because he loves us and wants only the best for us, the joy of being with him in heaven for all eternity. Even with all the help he offers, we may still lose out on it; but if we do, it will not be because he did not give us every chance, every help, every grace that would help us attain it. If we fail to attain heaven at the last, it is not because he did not seek us out; but because we refused to be found.

He sought, unasked, to bring the Israelites of ancient times back to him through the word of his prophets; he sought, unasked, to bring Paul and the people of those days back to him through the sending of his Son; and he seeks, unasked, to bring us and all others to return to him through the grace he bestows upon us, through the Church his Son gave us, and through his Holy Spirit which he promised and sent to guide us. My only prayer is that we will let ourselves be found. I hope it is your prayer also. Amen.

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