From The Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Exodus 32:7-14; 1 Timothy 1:12, 19; Luke 15  1-32

   Chapter 15 is the heart of Luke’s Gospel. In its three parables of Lost and Found—Sheep, Coin, and Sons—Jesus uses images for God that are offensive: a shepherd, a woman, and a Father who has no pride.

If you’re any kind of a Catholic, you must have heard a variation of this prayer: “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost that must be found.” You may have had a friend who told you to pray it when you had lost your car keys. Most likely though, yu heard it first, from your mother, or grandmother or a good nun in school.

It’s a prayer to St. Anthony of Padua, who is believed to be the patron saint of lost items. It traces back to a story that, as the legend goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that, in his eyes was priceless. Of course, it was the 133th century, and with ho printing press yet, any book had value. But it was his prayer book, Besides, in the margins he’d written all kinds of notes important to him.

Supposedly, a novice who had grown tired of living a religious life decided to leave the community.  But, he also decided to take Anthony’s psalter. It is said that Anthony prayed it would be found and returned to him. The fleeing novice had a change of heart, and returned the psalter and returned to the order as well.

There are so many coins clinking around on the floor of our congregation: lost hope, lost faith, lost self-esteem, lost perspective. So many lost items, so little time. Some woman tells you, ”I can’t stand to go into my Church anymore, not since my husband’s funeral there last year.” Can you help her find her lost faith and give it back to her?

A woman confides in you, “I don’t find any Good News any more in the Gospel message or the sermon. It’s not that I’m not listening. It’s because since my miscarriage I’ve lost my faith in God’s love and concern.” You and I have to find her faith for her and give it back to her. The future proclamation of the Church depends on it.

By being Christians, we are in the business of helping people find lost items. We are all called to be that Good Shepherd who goes out finding those lost sheep, risking skinned knees and strained wrists as we crawl into the ravines where they have stranded themselves. Or wait, I guess we’re to be the loving parental figure of Motel 6, “leaving the light on” for them, keeping the home-faith fires burning while they’re out for a decade or so finding themselves. Isn’t this our calling as Christians? To be the ones charged with turning on the lights, getting out the dirt devil, and listening for the thump that tells us a significant object has been sucked into the vac bag? Then getting in there with both hands and retrieving that thing. Getting out there and bringing in those lost souls. Giving those seekers what they’re searching for.

One Sunday morning several years ago, on my way into a church, I spotted the Lost and Found box in the entry way and decided to look through it to see if I could find a blue cap I had mislaid somewhere. There was no blue cap, but there was a pair of glasses in there. A set of keys. A watch. There is a lot that can show up in the lost and found box of your life, lying in there, unclaimed while you go about your life. It’s possible to lose a lot of things and keep on keeping on.

You can lose:  direction, your Faith, your faculties, your friend, your focus, lose ground, your hair, lose hope, heart, your head, your keys, your mind, mobility, perspective, respect, your spark, your sanity, your teeth, your temper, your touch.

When you lose something, it’s a good strategy to retrace your steps and find the spot where you lost it.  Revisit the mall stores are restaurant where you might have left your credit card. The sink where you took off your wedding ring and put it in the soap dish. Retrace your steps. Where did I mislay my prayer time, my communion time with God in favor a crammed calendar? Where did I misplace my compassion for poor people, my belief in the possibility of peace and peaceful solutions? And where did I leave my joy in sharing God’s caring love with others? My ‘Thank God’s Sunday’s coming and I can spend time at church with those I share Faith with, in favor of “Sunday’s coming again where am I going to find the time to go to church?

And when your energy is all used up, and gone, that’s okay too. Just lie in the corner and God will find you. God will retrieve you, too.    (Alyce McKenzie UMC)

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