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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJanuary 17, 2003 Issue 

Three lost sheep found by the shepherd

Show great passion for those who struggle to hear the voice of God

January 19, 2003 -- Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. Have you ever worked in a "Lost & Found" department?

2. How has the Lord found you out?

3. Have you ever gone out after a lost sheep?

There is within Christianity a "Lost & Found" department. In fact, as Catholic Christians we believe that all of us are in need of redemption, of being found by the saving grace of Jesus. In today's readings we are given three examples of people who were "found" by the Lord, the great "Hound of Heaven," as the poet Francis Thompson says.

One is Samuel. He, like the rest of us, was a searcher who heard his name being called out in the night's darkness. Eventually his mentor Eli advised Samuel to respond with an open mind and heart. And then those great words: ". . . and the Lord was with him." Samuel was invited into God's life and he responded in loving obedience. "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." (Not as one pundit said: "Speak, Lord, and your servant will think it over.")

St. Paul was lost big time. In fact, he persecuted the early Christians out of an exaggerated and distorted zeal. But then on the road to Damascus he got it. Thrown to the ground he heard the voice of the Lord. St. Paul went on, after a period of transformation, to proclaim that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. God is with us; we have been found. Our task is one of hospitality and service.

Andrew, the brother of Simon, shouts out: "We have found the Messiah." Perhaps it would have been more accurate for him to say: "The Messiah, Jesus, has found us, so lost in darkness and sin and ignorance." Either way the result is the same -- the call to discipleship. John the Baptist had completed his work in leading others to the "Lamb of God." He directed the lost sheep to the shepherd.

Perhaps the whole theme of "lost & found" is contained in two prepositions: "without & with." When we are disconnected from God, as the branch from the vine, then we are lost in the vast cosmos. Sin severs us from the very source of life and we are adrift. No direction is meaningful since we are going nowhere (or as a popular phrase states it -- it's the journey that's important, not the goal). Being "without" God is as good as dead.

Our vocation is to be "with" God, to be found in that state of love, life, and light that is called grace. Being "with" means that we are accompanied in everything that we do. The Lord was with Samuel which meant that now the nighttime voice would be recognized for what it was. God was with Simon and drew him from fishing in lakes to fishing for souls. God was with St. Paul to inspire him to proclaim to the Gentiles the great mystery of Jesus.

At times many of us experience the "lostness" of life. This occurs often in times of crises as at the death of a loved one, the breaking of trust, the rejection of friendship, the moods of depression that sometimes sweep across the soul. For many, life is a tremendous struggle and the search for God is intense. Thus we should have great compassion for one another when we do not seem to hear the voice of God, when the "Lamb of God" is not pointed out to us, when we find it hard to experience the saving mystery of Jesus. Ignorance, fear, and apathy are factors in the human condition that cast us into the alienating state of lostness.

All this having been said, we still are offered, on a daily basis, the gift of faith. May that faith lead us to repeat often our responsorial refrain from today's liturgy: "Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will." And even if we don't "feel" found, we can be assured that the Lord is near, just around the corner, just behind us, just about the closest thing to our heart.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.)

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