Monday, August 08, 2016

In Search of the Stray

By Phillip Medhurst (Photo by Harry Kossuth) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

I ate (the scroll), and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them. (Ezekiel 3:3-4)

How sweet to my taste is your promise! (Psalm 119:103a)

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.” (Matthew 18:12-13)

Lord, give me the faith to rejoice… and the wisdom not to judge the journeys of others.

When I returned to the Catholic Church after thirty-three years, I loved this parable. And the one about the prodigal son. And the one about the vineyard workers. They said to me that God loved me, no matter how long I’d been away, no matter how “those people” in the pews might look askance at my fumblings back toward faith.

It brought me up a bit short when I pondered these stories further and realized they weren’t just about people who left the Church and came back. They were about “those people” in the pews who’d had Him all along but who, being human, struggled and sinned and strayed. They could be lost sheep too. And God loved them every bit as much as He loved me… and desired me to love them as well.

It didn’t seem fair, somehow. Why would God rejoice just as much in the penance of someone who was in the confessional every week as He did in my return?

Finally, it hit me one day as I was singing along to “All We Like Sheep” from Handel’s Messiah with its beautiful lyrics from Isaiah 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray/We have turned every one to his own way.”

How big the turn is needn’t concern us. The point is that we all do… and regardless, the Lord is thrilled when each and every one of us turns back.

Do something today to help someone who has gone astray in a big or small way.

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