Have you ever been physically lost? For virtually all of us the answer is yes but for us men it's difficult to admit and it is even more difficult to ask for directions. Of course there are those times when there isn't someone to ask and by your own analysis it is necessary to come to our own conclusion via clear thinking.
One of the areas it is easy to get lost in is in the woods and I love to spend time in the woods so getting lost isn't something new for me. Many of my vacations have been spent canoeing, portaging between lakes and rustic camping in the Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. Take my word for it getting lost there is easy but usually I am not lost for too long but there are exceptions. One time we were taking a portage of about 3/4 of a mile which should not have taken more than 1/2 hour. About 1/4 mile into the portage there was a fork in the trail and we took the right path. After a while the trail disappeared and we were lost deep in the woods with all our provisions for the week on our back including the canoes, food, tents, etc. It took hours to get back on the right path, but first it was necessary to agree that we were lost, to agree on a plan of action to find the right path and take the action necessary to get back on the right path.
In our gospel reading today we have three parables about being lost. The first about the one sheep straying like we did on the trail in the Quetico and the shepherd going after the one who was lost. The 2nd is about the woman who lost a precious coin and then lights a lamp and sweeps until she finds it and the 3rd is about the prodical son who takes all his inheritance and then takes the wrong path much as we did in the Quetico and becomes totally lost. In each of these parables others in addition to the lost one are a part of the story.
In the first one we have the shepherd who goes after the wayward sheep much as God comes after us when we stray and welcomes us back. Can you imagine how the lost one felt when he saw the shepherd. In addition can you imagine how the other 99 welcomed the lost one back like a long lost friend. In the 2nd the woman's friends celebrated with her after she found the coin much as the 99 welcomed the wayward one. In the 3rd parable we have the father looking longingly for his lost son as God looks longingly for us to return when we stray and celebrates when we return to him. When the sheep and the son found themselves lost they were undoubtedly were unhappy, were blaming themselves for the dumb things they had done and the wrong decisions they had made but once found they experienced true joy, happiness, acceptance and contentment.
Each of us gets lost physically and possibly spiritually at times but we have been blessed with our Christian Faith and morals. You might say that we have been blessed with a faith which is based on love and we need to thank God for that gift. Last Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of actions which were based on hate and the lack of respect for human life. The 12th anniversary of those who we believe were radical Muslims flying planes into the Trade Center, the Pentagon and into the field in Pennsylvania. Their actions are difficult for us in an American Christian culture but judging them is God's job not ours. From our vantage point, they have really strayed from the truth and about all we can do for them is to pray for them, for all those who have their beliefs, and pray that they can be found like the Lost Sheep in today's gospel.
Being blessed as we are there are still times we stray from the path which God would be pleased with. Often we think we can do it on our own and neglect to stay in good communications with God or we want to do our thing or just take the easy path or what appears to be the more enjoyable path rather than what we see the more difficult path God has called us to.
When are the radical Muslims or us prodical sons and daughters found? Just as we in the Quetico wilderness had to first admit that we were lost, we in our everyday life need to review where we are each day and define the path we are currently on. Once we admit that we have taken the wrong path, the next step is to define a plan to return to the right path which includes listening to God's calling us back. God is always there calling us back. He is always there giving us directions back to Him, in contrast to our Quetico experience where we had to find our way back to the right path without help. We are found when we respond positively to His efforts to find us. The result of this action increases the joy in our lives and in the lives of those God has put into our lives much like it did for the found sheep, the 99 sheep, the friends of the lady who found her precious coin and at least in father of the Prodical son.
On this time when we remember the disaster of 9/11, let's ask God to forgive those who hate and inspire us and them to see that God's message is one of love not hate, to love and not judge others. As well as ask God to give each of us the willingness to examine our own lives, define the wrong paths we are on and take the actions to answer God's call to follow Christ in our efforts to enjoy His Kingdom both here and in eternity.