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Homily – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – “Where’d You Go?”

September 15, 2010

 Gospel audio is here.

Homily audio is here (listen to it; it’s a little different from the text below, but I’m too lazy to transcribe the changes!).

“Where’d You Go?”

 

GPS is a wonderful thing!  You can just put the address you’re trying to get to into that puppy, hit “Navigate”, and turn by turn, the thing tells you exactly where to go!  Most of us have access to a GPS now; our phones even have them included.  And if we can’t get GPS on our phone, there’s always MapQuest, or Google Maps, or other services to tell us how to get to where we’re headed.

But since that’s the case, since we can use a computer to see places far and near, and a computer will tell us exactly how to get where we want to go…how do we still manage to get lost? With so many resources to show us the way…how do we manage to lose our way?

As it is with the physical, so it is with the spiritual.  With so much help out there, how do we manage to still get lost?  And what hope is there for us when we do?

More importantly: do we even realize it when we’re lost?  And do we leave God asking, “Where’d you go?”

This is not a new problem.  In the Old Testament reading today, Moses is intervening with God on behalf of the Children of Israel, who (yet again!) had descended into worship of idols!  What were they thinking?  Where did they go, that they forgot that it was God who saved them from Egypt, that it was God who was leading them to the Promised Land!  How did they get so lost that, not once, but twice, they decided to worship an idol they’d made themselves, instead of the God who made them?

And yet, Moses is able to turn away God’s wrath at His people, simply by reminding God of all He had promised to them!  The just punishment owed to the people of Israel was turned back…by God’s mercy.

And look at the Gospel for today.  Jesus tells two parables, all about something lost being found.  The first parable, about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one, is the subject of many a painting of Jesus.  The second, though, about the woman sweeping the house to find her lost coin, is a little tougher to picture.

But in both cases, Jesus’ point is the same:  God wants the lost to be found!  No effort is too great to expend to rescue a sinner!  And heaven rejoices when the lost get found!

 

We don’t relate as well to those stories, because we don’t live the same way the people of Israel did in Jesus’ day.  But they still apply to us.

The first lines of the Gospel give it away.  What was the complaint of the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus?  “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Jesus’ offense, in their minds, was hanging out with sinners!  Jesus went to the trouble of telling not one, not two, but three parables to address their complaint, because He came to us to rescue the lost!  Jesus didn’t show up as a man just to high-five the righteous.  He came because, like Paul, all of us get lost sometimes, and all of us need to be found!

 

“But Deacon Chip”, one might say, “I’m not that bad!  I come to church, I try to be a good person…surely this isn’t about me!”

Think about it for a minute, though.  Sure, there are people who willfully ignore God, who flaunt His commandments, who live lives that are intentionally opposed to God.  They’re probably not here today.

But going back to the parables from the Gospels: How did that sheep get lost?  There is safety and security in the flock!  Was he intentionally ignoring the shepherd, just to be hard-headed?  No!  More likely, the sheep got distracted by something, and when he looked around, the flock had moved on without him.  Or he took a wrong path, one that looked like it was going where the rest of the flock was headed, but that turned off suddenly, leaving the sheep stranded.

And how did that coin get lost?  It was worth a day’s wages; surely the woman would have paid attention.  Did she just throw the coins around carelessly, or was it that one just rolled away on its own?

There are a lot of ways we can end up in sin, without even trying hard.  We think we know the way we should go, only to find we’re not where we thought we’d end up.  Or we get distracted by something: a pretty person, or a strong emotion; something bad happens, like an illness, or the death of a spouse; or maybe we make a wrong turn, and then can’t find our way back. 

Today’s Gospel tells us, though, that God is ever on the watch for us.  God wants to forgive our sins.  He wants us to be with Him, not separated from Him.  And He will spare no effort to find us when we get lost!

 

It’s funny how we can still manage to get lost, in spite of all the technology that is available to us to help us understand where to go.

And it’s sad, as well, how we can manage to wander away from God, in spite of all the information available to us about life in Christ.

Jesus tells us in today’s parables that God yearns for us to be with Him.  He tells us that no effort will be spared to find us if we get lost.

We all wander away from the path we should be on.  When we do, God is there to ask:  “Where’d you go?”  And then, He’s there to pick us up and return us to where we belong.

Are we distracted…by the world?  Are we allowing ourselves to be led down the wrong path…by Satan, and by the flesh?  Are we allowing sin to make us deaf to the turn-by turn directions of our spiritual GPS?

Where’d we go? 

God’s looking for us…

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