Homily for September 15

Image by Carol Grace Bomer

Lost and Found: Week 2
New Roads Catholic Community on Vimeo.

Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Welcome to the second week of a message series for the fall,
a series we’re calling Lost & Found.
We’re beginning this series by looking at what it means to be lost.
Not just physically lost, but lost in other ways, too.

• Maybe you feel lost in a relationship.
There was an issue with your spouse or your friend
and it just became this big thing.
Now whenever you’re together it’s the "elephant" in the room.
You’re drifting apart. You don’t want this but you can see it happening.
You don’t know what to do. You feel lost.

• Maybe you feel lost as a parent.
How do you deal with a raging toddler or a sulking middle schooler?
Maybe you pour all your energy into how to be a good parent to your kids
but you still feel stumped by your children’s behavior.
And you feel lost.

• Or maybe it’s not one particular topic or area where you feel lost.
Maybe there’s a persistent restlessness you just can’t seem to shake,
especially during times of challenge and change and transition,
a restlessness that leaves you feeling
uncomfortable and unsettled - lost…

• So, what do you do when you feel lost?
Maybe you panic - paralyzed with fear or worry.
Maybe you try to escape
- you look for anything to help you avoid the feeling of being lost.
Maybe you pretend to others - or even to yourself
- that you’re not lost at all: “Me? Lost? Oh no, I’m just fine.”

• But the bottom line is this: when you’re lost
- you don’t want to stay lost. No one wants to stay lost.
We have a very strong, natural, ingrained human desire -
a desire to be found.

• So today we’re looking at the first thing to do when you’re lost.
What’s the first step to take?
How do you start down the path toward being found?

• To help us in taking a first step toward being found,
we're looking at the story we heard from the Gospel of Luke.
Actually, we heard 3 stories, or parables.
Three different stories with this related thread:
 in each story, something is lost, something is found,
and then there’s a celebration.
The most famous of all is the longer story, the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Jesus tells this story in which a son says to his father:
"Dad, I've got things to do and places to go
so, I don’t want to wait until you die until I get my inheritance
- I'd like to have it - right now.

And yes, that would have been as shocking then as it sounds to us now.
But even more shocking than the son’s demand is his dad's response.
He gives him what he wants.

So, the son takes his inheritance and takes off.
He proceeds to live “a life of dissipation”
which is bible talk for:  he made a whole lot of poor choices!
And he ends up in a really tough spot.
He has no money left, can’t get a decent job, and he's got nothing to eat.

Now in most parables, someone usually represents God
- and someone usually represents us.
And most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves,
can identify with the son on a very basic level - he’s lost!
He's at the end of his rope
and he’s trying to figure out what he’s going to do now.

Then the whole story takes a sudden turn.
Here's how Jesus described it:
"Coming to his senses the son thought,
'How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I - dying from hunger.'" Luke 15

He comes to his senses.
If this were a cartoon, there'd be a big light bulb over his head.
He finally gets it:  this is ridiculous, I don't have to live like this.

But don't we often get stuck there?
"Where I'm at stinks - this is the pits!
But it is what it is and I've only myself to blame."
When we feel lost, we feel stuck, like there are no options.
It seems like there's no way out, no Plan B, no escape route
- no path forward.

• But this son has an ah-ha moment, he says"
 “I'll get up and go to my father.” Luke 15
"I'm gonna go home and face the music."

And that’s exactly what he does.
Now the father in the story, of course, represents God. 
And what's God’s response to this son?  To this son        
- who wished his father dead,
- who made life choices that would have brought shame to his family,
- who squandered and now has lost all the money he took?
What's the father's response to this son?
"While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him."  Luke 15

Apart from the story of the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus,
I can't think of a more important story in the gospel.
This story is crucial in helping us understand who God is
- and who we are - and who we are in relationship to God
-especially in those times when our choices have left us lost.

• So, what’s the picture of God here in the story of the Prodigal Son?
First of all, you don't catch sight of someone when they're far away
- - unless you have an eye out for them,
unless you’re out there scanning the horizon searching for them
and that’s JUST what the father is doing.

• And that’s JUST what God is doing when you and I are lost.
God is right there scanning the horizon, watching and hoping
that we'll make even the slightest movement toward him.
And when we do, when you and I make a move toward God,
when we take the smallest step - he's there to meet us.
In fact, he comes running to meet you - he comes running to meet me...

But wait! There’s more! It gets even better.
It’s even more unbelievable than that. 
When you make a movement toward God,
even when you’ve made mistakes,
even when you've made really poor choices like the son in the story,
even then, God isn't mad at you, isn't angry with you.

• When it comes to being lost, here’s what you need to know about God:
he’s there looking for you, waiting for you,
waiting for you to want to come home.
God’s searching you out.
God’s wanting you to be found.
And if -- when -- you take a step in God’s direction,
God will meet you there - right where you are!
 And he’ll meet you with love and mercy, with open arms and with joy. 

• You know, actually, God’s response isn't - well, it's not reasonable.
Remember the first of the three parables, Jesus says:
 “What man among you having a hundred sheep
and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?” Luke 15
No reasonable shepherd would do that! It just doesn't make sense!
Keep the 99 safe, let the 1 go!
If you go after the 1, you risk the 99! 

But here's the deal:
God treats each of us like we’re his only son or his only daughter
and if any one of us is lost, it’s:  Stop everything!
God’s highest priority is to find us, each one of us.

So, what’s our first step when we're lost?
when you're lost? When I'm lost?
Well, the best place to start is where the son started:
Coming to his senses he thought…
 “I shall get up and go to my father.” Luke 1

• What should you do when you’re lost?
 Step 1: Get up and go to your Father.
And that begins with an admission that you are in fact - lost.
Admitting, at the very least:
I can’t do this on my own anymore
and I'm going to stop acting as if I can.
I'm gonna go back to my father and rely on him.
I'm gonna solve this problem with him,
resolve this problem, with him.
I'm gonna stop relying entirely on myself and my own resources
and began to rely on God to help me.

This is an incredibly obvious and, yet, remarkably difficult thing to do:
to acknowledge that I can’t do it on my own, to admit I need help,
- and to take a real step toward finding that help. 

• The prodigal son had to undertake a physical journey back home;
the journey we need to take when we’re lost is, at least in part,
a spiritual one. 
And it begins in prayer.
It begins with returning to God in prayer.
It begins with talking to God about our feeling lost.
It begins by talking to God about what’s going on. 
It begins with talking to God openly and honestly,
saying whatever's on my mind,
spilling out whatever's on my chest.
It’s OK to be frustrated or angry - even angry at God - God can take it! 

• You see, I talk to God
not to tell him something I think he doesn't already know
but because I can’t truly be open
to hearing his response or following his lead
if I'm not first open with the Lord about my problems,
and why I need his help and guidance.

• If we believed God is always looking for us,
our world and our lives would be so different.
• If we believed in the love and mercy of God,
if we believed God is relentless and extravagant
in his love for people who feel lost
as relentless and extravagant in his love
as that shepherd who left nearly all his sheep
to find ONE who was lost.
• if we believed in God like this - it would change everything.

Certainly, it would change our church.
In fact, that is what’s changing this church. 
At New Roads our focus is on reaching people who feel lost --   
especially those who feel lost when it comes to church and faith.

• And if that’s not you,
you might begin to feel a bit like the older brother in this story.
It might seem unfair to go after the ONE, leaving the 99 behind.
Well, that’s true, it’s not fair.
But that's how God works.
That's what Jesus tells us about his Father's love.

At the end of the prodigal son story, it becomes clear
that the older son is lost too,
maybe even more lost than his brother. 
The older son has spent all this time with the Father,
following the rules, doing his duty.
But you know what?
It turns out, he doesn’t know the father very well at all!

• God's first desire, his FIRST desire is seeking and finding
those who feel lost, those who don't know
his relentless and extravagant love.

• That's God's mission - and if it's God's mission
it's OUR mission, too, the mission of the church,
the mission of us who are here every week.

• Like the older brother, we have to choose to accept that--or not.
We can sit outside stubbornly and complain or gossip that it’s not fair,
that we’ve already and faithfully done our part
and we deserve this or that.
Or, OR! we can choose to be part of the work God is doing right now,
right here in Belmont.

And I’m here to tell you that New Roads is reaching out to
and reaching people who feel off in the distance from God and faith,
- and that's a good reason to celebrate!

Bottom line: if you feel lost,
come home to God and talk with God about it.
God's waiting for you, scanning the horizon for your return,
waiting to warmly welcome you home.

• And if you don’t feel lost yourself
- then join God, join in the mission of the church,
join the work of New Roads in scanning the horizon,
on the lookout for even ONE person,
looking to take that first step towards home. 

God's waiting to work through you and me to bring others home.
Let's not do anything to get in the way of God's work.


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