Friday, November 4, 2005

The Lost Sheep

By Mitchell

Lest we become too distracted by the liturgical expert we sat next to yesterday, we should also spend a moment on the message of yesterday's Gospel, as Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-6). On the face of it, Fr. Tiffany said in his homily, this doesn't seem to make much sense. After all, why would a shepherd risk losing 99 of his sheep in order to recover one?

And then, a few years ago, he talked to a man who actually was a shepherd, who explained it all. The lost sheep, having been found by the shepherd and hoisted up on his shoulders, would have started bleating; the bleating in turn would have attracted the other sheep, who would have headed toward the sound, and thereby returned to the shepherd. So in a way it's the recovery of that lost sheep that brings the flock together, gathered around their shepherd.

And it makes perfect sense.

So it is with our relationship with Christ, Fr. Tiffany concluded. Sometimes we become lost on our journey; we know where we want to go, but not how to get there. Other times, however, we seek to lose ourselves, to hide from that which is expected of us. And it that effort to hide, in giving others the slip, we wind up losing our way completely, so that we become strangers to ourselves. We are truly lost sheep, with no idea of where we are, but also no idea of who we are, or where we want to go.

And that is when Christ seeks us out, the shepherd trying to reunite his flock. You can't hide from God; we are born with the love of God inside us, and the desire to be with Him. It is that homing device that leades Him in pursuit of us, of finding us no matter where we are. It is of this chase that Francis Thompson wrote in The Hound of Heaven:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat -- and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet --
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

The unnamed protagonist of Thompson's poem discovers that he can run, but he can't hide:

But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home :
Rise, clasp My hand, and come !"
Halts by me that footfall :
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly ?
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me."

Neither can we hide from Him Who sees all. We may deny Him; we may refuse to return with Him. But we cannot imagine that He does not see us, nor that He will not seek us out. For, as Fr. Tiffany reminded us, "He has ways."

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