He Comes After ME

First Reading ROM 14:7-12

 Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1BCDE, 4, 13-14

 Gospel LK 15:1-10

 Full Readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110719.cfm

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a story about a shepherd who seeks a lost member of his flock. I had two questions when reading this parable: Why did the sheep wander off? And why did the shepherd go after just one sheep when he had 99 others to watch over?

 So, I did a little research. Google says sheep can stray when they feel sick because they don’t want to slow down the rest of the flock and jeopardize its safety. But sheep are helpless when they are lost, too afraid to lie down for fear that they would be attacked by a predator. They wander in circles and cry. Their only hope is that the shepherd comes to find them. I also learned that sheep have excellent hearing and they can distinguish the voice of their shepherd over everyone else. But they have to pause between their cries to listen.

 I am convinced it was Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who came to find me a few years ago. I had become distracted by things in life — raising my kids, growing my career, trying to keep up with what everyone else was doing socially in Plano. I just went through the motions of going to Mass, not always regularly. My day had no time for prayer. When tragedy struck, I was completely lost. My mother suffered a stroke that left her without the ability to speak or eat or walk. As I was helping my brothers and sisters care for her in San Antonio, one of my sons ended up in the hospital in Austin with a serious illness. Like a lost sheep, I was paralyzed in fear. I was sick with grief and I wandered away from God because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to deserve His love. When I told my middle brother that I had lost all trust and hope in God, he told me to just listen. God would come find me. How could that be? I had cried out for help with no answer. My brother took me to the Eucharistic chapel at his parish and told me to just sit in the Lord’s presence. I began going to the chapel every day for at least an hour to just sit. And cry. And listen. My lips could not speak words. The silence was deafening and the worries in my head only became louder. My brother insisted that I keep going. Then I began to hear God’s voice. Not in a physical, strike-of-lightning kind of way. It happened gradually. I began to recognize God’s overwhelming love for me. I began to feel his embrace. My son was released from the hospital, doing much better. I was with my mother when she died in the middle of the night that summer, soon after we had gathered as a family around her to say a rosary and a priest administered the Sacrament of the Sick. Through her suffering and my family’s unrelenting trust and reliance on God, I found strength.

 Today’s responsorial song says, “The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” Like the woman in today’s Gospel who sweeps the floor clean to find the missing coin, God works through the messiness of our lives to find us. Today’s first reading also says, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” What can we do when others wander off and feel lost? A flock of sheep uses its natural instinct of self-preservation by moving closer to each other when they are chased. That’s how dogs herd a flock, for example. I want to let others who are lost know that we are here as a community to help each other and that God is always seeking them. I am forever grateful to God, our Shepherd, who cares because He knows we need Him. We are lost without Him. Listen. He is calling you. 

-Annette Nevins