“I” am the lost sheep. I think I would like to return to Church. But… they are many buts. I think I am lost in my doubts, confused by my emotions. I grew up steep in my Catholic belief. I ventured into the adult world and was distracted by its glitzy appeal. A happy life seem promising, money could buy a bit. Releasing myself from the clutches of faith, I found that I could buy even more. Looking back I squandered a rich faith life. Now I want to return.
“I” am the lost sheep. There is typically a turmoil somewhere in my life. I am always in some storm. I am never at peace and a happy life seem elusive. I am feeling desperate, nothing seem to work. But hope continues to flicker, it doesn’t seem able to die on me. I roll back the years, this hope is the hope from my Catholic faith. I am a lost sheep wandering in the wilderness of my emotions. This hope is beckoning. I want to go home but how?
“I” am a lost sheep. I am now very weak in faith. I feel guilty for abandoning my faith. I have an unbelievably long list of sins. Will I ever be forgiven? I do not feel worthy. I have a sense of shame. I feel awkward just at the thought of returning. I am unsure, my mind filled with questions, I need to be sure. I am searching, I am looking for answers. Where? What? How? I am desperate for an immediate fix, yet I need time. I may not realise it but I am emotionally and spiritually wounded. I need help.
“I” am a typical profile of a returning Catholic, someone trying to return to Church. Returning to Church is not simply waking up on a Sunday and deciding to go for mass. For a few, maybe, but for most of “us” we need to be “found”.
“What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it?” (Today’s Gospel)
It was difficult initiating that first connection, writing that email and taking that first phone call. Where do I start, what do I say? I feared what they would ask of me. Would they ask me to go for confession? If they did, I might just postpone this for a little while longer.
“I” was met in a dimly lit pub, a frosty mug of beer in my hand giving me warm comfort. I chose this familiar environment. I feel safe here. The Church had come out to meet me. I heard words of encouragement. There was no reading of the Ten Commandments, no riot act. I did not feel judged but instead, welcomed. I was surprised. I felt in me able to trust this encounter. I opened up, I was listened to. I was made to feel better, I heard words of affirmation. I realise that many people share very similar struggles even those who were practising their faith. My faith was rekindled. I want to return.
“I” am now a restored, returned Catholic. It was not an instantaneous decision. I needed time to journey through my doubts. I needed time to be healed from my emotional wounds. Like the lost sheep I needed to be carried home. I needed spiritual accompaniment. Looking back I encountered the embodiment of this act of God our Father: “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.”
“I” am now a hunter for the lost sheep. I had made many bad choices in life, did things unworthy of the love of God. But our God is a generous God, He waste not my experiences. Instead he uses them to seek, understand, and bring other lost sheep home. The ‘bad’ in me is useful too. I am affirmed. “I” was once lost but now am found.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.” (Words of St Paul, second reading)
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time