“Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep!”
Jesus asks which one of us would not respond like this after finding someone or something precious that had been lost. It’s the natural response. However by contrast, in the first reading from the Old Testament, the chosen people lose God and do not seem to rejoice when Moses wins him back. This is the danger, of course, that it is possible for us to become so dulled to God’s call and God’s vision of us that we turn our attention and allegiance to a poor substitute god of our own making. Does anyone remember the movie, “Joe and the Volcano”? Remember how “the Waponie” worshiped Orange Crush? Pretty funny, but entirely understandable if, perhaps, you’re the owner of the Orange Crush company.
Jesus brings the message home triple-fold by following up his examples of the shepherd finding his lost sheep and the widow who found her lost coin with the lengthy saga of The Prodigal Son. The profound joy of the father seeing his son returning in the distance is hardly lost on any of us. We all want to be so loved and so forgiven.
It seems to me that the strong message in today’s readings is really all about desire. Do any of us need to be convinced of how powerful our desires can be? St. Ignatius of Loyola says that we can discern God’s will for us in an examination of our desires. He says that important clues are found in our desire’s resulting feelings of consolation and/or desolation. Moses knows that the chosen people’s desire for a quick fix is headed for a desolation of hopelessness and he begs God’s forgiveness. On the other hand, the desire of the shepherd for his sheep, the widow for her coin, and the father for his lost son bring them great consolation when that which had true value is restored to them.
But what if that which is lost cannot be found or recovered?
There was a family back in the ’50’s that purchased one of the modernizations of the time—TV trays. Before they knew it, they found that they were grabbing dinners and heading for the TV each evening and, almost undetectably, stopped eating around a table as a family, except for maybe holidays. Later on, members of the family described this as a loss—a mistake. 20/20 hindsight blamed problems of lack of interest in each other and watching out for one another on the offhanded decision to no longer share meals together. What then were the desires that led up to the decision to be thoroughly modern? What would an analysis of the consequent feelings of consolation and desolation by family members reveal about the spiritual wellbeing of the family?
Consolation / Desolation: What experience of these do you have going on in your present experience of life, or perhaps over your lifetime? Give this some thought and then take it to God. I guarantee that this spiritual exercise will pay off—and probably surprise you with God-given deeper knowledge and understanding of yourself and of God. Try it. But I can’t guarantee that you will necessarily like it. We know that even now Jesus desires us to be with him. Where do our desires lie and where are they taking us? Let us pray to the Good Shepherd today, that we may find and recover our precious losses—before we discover that it’s too late!