I really love today’s Gospel, because I often reflect upon being one of those sheep who went astray and the Lord in His Great Love (with better things to do and better people to save) chose to come and get me. I also know He did so through some really great people! While I think about this often (as you probably notice if you’ve read a few of my reflections) I also know I’ve got a long way to go in being one of those people who is a true Instrument of the Lord in bringing others back.
It’s hard to let go of the security we have and find in our faith. As a priest, I am called upon by the Lord to emulate Him as Shepherd. It is my role and duty to leave the 99 and go find the one and yet it’s very easy to preach to the choir. We priests can find ourselves so busy that we stay in our churches, among the gathered and don’t find the time to reach out to the scattered. This is where we are not doing our jobs unless we empower others to take care of the gathered, as they themselves are gathered and then empower even more to come and help us reach the scattered.
I think of my first parish assignment, at St. Patrick’s in Markham. I remember being told by some of my mentors and priest friends that I should not spend an inordinate amount of time in the schools, that what I had a passion for as a seminarian was not my job as a priest. I took it to heart that too much time in the schools might be self-serving and that I should consider my place in celebrating the Sacraments inside the parish. I took this to prayer and really felt that the Lord showed me it was not selfish or self-serving and I don’t recall a time I neglected to show up for the parish sacraments, and I did more in our feeder schools than I did as a seminarian. I don’t share this to make a point about me, but rather to say that we need to rely on the Lord in this way. For the many (many) things the Lord needs to continue to reveal to me, one thing He has already shown me is the importance of going out in search of the “scattered”. I spent a lot of time in the schools as a parish priest, and I know as many of us do that there are a large number of students, just as their parents have stopped coming to Church – have very limited ways of knowing the love and mercy of God and I saw in the questions of these kids a thirst for something that was not mine to decide to give or not give. The Word of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ is not meant for who we decide it should be for – only the worthy. It is for all. I am a recipient of that, when I was far-scattered, I am truly thankful the Lord came to me!