24th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 11, 2016
Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
So in another life, I used to work as a cashier at Kohl’s department store.
I know that a bunch of you are trying to visualize this right now, so let me help.
Good morning! Welcome to Kohl’s. Did you find everything you were looking for today?
Yup, I really was that annoyingly cheerful.
Now most of my days were routinely spent connecting a customer with their favorite pair of jeans.
But every once in a while, we would need to find something quite different than the usual sale.
About once a month, a child would get lost. They would get separated walking down an aisle or they would decide to play hide and go seek in the clothes racks.
It didn’t matter how it happened, the reaction was always the same.
A parent would come frantically to the counter, worry and anxiety etched in every line of their face. I can’t find my son. I don’t know where my daughter is.
Like clockwork, we would release a code and every employee began the hunt. Some of us were on our hands and knees, while others checked dressing rooms, bathrooms, and jean cubbies.
After what would seem like an eternity, we would always hear the all clear.
And then we would watch as the parent would scoop up their child, both comforting and chiding them all in one breath. Don’t you ever do that do daddy again. Mommy was so worried about you. I’m so glad you are ok. I love you.
I must admit, I always think of those years at Kohl’s when I hear this Gospel from today.
But in truth, all three of these readings are all about what it means to be lost and to be found.
I love the fact that over the course of these readings we hear so many different variations on what it means to be lost.
We hear about Individuals who are lost and entire communities are lost,
Some people are lost by no fault of their own, but as the result of the circumstances they find themselves in . . . like the coin that accidentally rolled off the table.
While others are lost because of the choices they made, whether out of ignorance or malice, arrogance or youthful rebellion.
It seems that there are a multitude of ways that one gets lost.
And let’s be honest. We know that.
For at different points in our lives, we all, whether as individuals or as a community feel lost.
It can be the feeling of being lost that comes with being a freshman at a new school or a new employee at their first meeting.
It can be the feeling of being lost that comes with rebuilding after your wife walks out the door or your father dies.
It can be the feeling of being lost that flows from an addiction or a bridge that we’ve burnt.
It can be the feeling of being lost that can afflict an entire community or an entire country . . . like the feeling many of us had in those terrible days after 9/11.
But what I love about these readings is that everyone who is lost ultimately gets found.
Lost sheep are gently placed on shoulders and carried home.
Lost coins are dragged from their hiding place under the dresser and restored to their rightful home.
Lost children are embraced and forgiven.
Lost adults gain insight into their previous mistakes and are empowered to choose a new path.
Lost communities are challenged to leave behind their destructive ways and become who God has called them to be.
And in each of those moments, there is a celebration in which all who are present share in the joy that comes with being found.
To be honest, some of these celebrations probably seem like overkill. Do we really need a party because someone found a quarter?
But maybe that is the point of these readings.
It doesn’t matter how we got lost. That experience of being lost is troubling and unnerving. It causes fear and anxiety.
Which is why when we are found. That experience of reconciliation and reunion, of safety and comfort is so powerful.
And therefore, it always deserves a celebration.
At the end of the day, my friends, this is what it means to be Church.
That we will be the instrument by which the lost are found. We will be the shoulders that carry. We will get down on our hands and knees. We will go running down the hill. We will stand before our God and intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters in need.
We will be the ones who celebrate every time someone finds that waiting embrace.
So that in those moments and seasons in which we are lost. We will always know where we can go to be found.
May God be Praised.