In all three of the stories in Luke’s Gospel today we have something or someone who is lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son often known as the prodigal son. The shepherd searches for the lost sheep and the woman searches for the lost coin and the father searches the horizon waiting for the son to return. What Jesus is telling us when he tells these stories that God is searching for us. Many talk about the spiritual life as our quest for God, our search for God. The spiritual life is sometimes described as finding God in our lives. I think that it is the other way round. God is searching for us. What we need to do is to allow ourselves to be found by God. God is passionate about us. St Catherine of Siena has a phrase that expresses this. She says that God is “mad in love” with us. Here are some of her words.
“O eternal Father! O fiery abyss of charity! O eternal beauty, O eternal wisdom, O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy! O hope and refuge of sinners! O immeasurable generosity! O eternal, infinite Good! O mad lover! And you have need of your creature? It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her, in spite of the fact that you are Life itself, and everything has life from you and nothing can have life without you. Why then are you so mad? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made!”
So often people imagine God as a distant figure, sitting in judgement on us, waiting for us to do the right thing. In the first reading this weekend from Exodus God says to Moses about the people of Israel who have apostatised: “ Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them;” After Moses pleads God relents. This suggests this is God’s perception of his creation. Bishop Robert Barron in his reflection on this gospel says that the three stories suggest there are three ways of being found. The coin represents people who are spiritually dead. They don’t know they are lost. They are so far from God, so alienated from their real purpose. They have wandered in the land of unlikeness. They are closed in themselves. There is hope because God diligently searches and finds those who don’t now they are lost. The sheep are those who know they are in trouble. They realise that they are spiritually compromised. God finds them too and carries them home on his shoulders. Finally, in the story of the prodigal son, the son has gone into conscious rebellion of his Father, and there are those who consciously rebel against God and realise they are lost and are seeking a way back.
What is common to all three stories is that there is rejoicing in being found. We need as a parish and a church to rejoice in those who return. Perhaps we need to open are heart and let God find us.