Finding The Lost

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Several years ago my sweet sister-in-law Kay gave me a beautiful pair of earrings. Made of silver, they have a gray freshwater pearl with a citrine on top. I love the unusual combination and I wear them a lot. Until last week. I’d worn the earrings and was undressing for bed when I realized one of the earrings was missing. My heart broke. I looked through the clothes I’d just taken off and then I got a flashlight and searched the bedroom floor. Nothing. I was so disappointed that I’d lost one of my absolute favorite things. I said a quick prayer to St. Anthony, who helps so many of us find lost things. Over the next couple of days whenever I’d walk through the house my eyes would search each floor, hoping I’d find my earring. But I was beginning to think it was gone for good. Had St. Anthony forgotten me this time?

Then one morning, as I was rushing to leave for work, I dropped my keys by the front door. When I stooped down to pick them up, I caught a glimpse of something shiny under a small bookshelf. When I looked closer I saw that it was my missing earring! Thanks be to God—and good St. Anthony. Finding my missing little treasure really made my day. It’s a great feeling to find something dear to your heart that you thought was gone. There’s no feeling quite like it.

Our Lord is in the business of finding the lost. He tells us this over and over again in Scripture. We hear of the shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to search for the one sheep that is missing (Luke 15:3-7). We know about the woman who searched her house over for the coin she’d lost (Luke 15:8-10). Probably the tenderest story is the one of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This was one of the favorite stories of our late Pope John Paul II. He often used it to illustrate the depth of God’s love and mercy for His children. No one is beyond the reach of God’s forgiving embrace. Jesus tells us the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents and returns to God (Luke 15:7).

It makes sense then, that every time one of us goes to confession, we cause the angels to rejoice. Think of that the next time you go. Repentance is that “turning back” to God. By acknowledging our sinfulness and our need of God’s forgiveness, we are enveloped in God’s loving embrace, just like the prodigal son who found love and mercy in his father’s arms. Despite whatever we’ve done and despite what we truly deserve, God receives us with love. This is important to remember: Jesus receives sinners. In fact, the Church He founded on St. Peter ONLY receives sinners. The words of the first pope to the earliest Christians are exactly what the Catholic Church still teaches: “Repent and be baptized..”(Acts 2:38). When you know you’re a sinner and you know that only Jesus can save you, that’s when you’ll seek Him in His Church. You don’t realize how lost you are on your own until you grasp that you’re a sinner in need of grace. That’s why God goes out of His way to tell us this, over and over again. Nothing gives Him more joy than to welcome us home to His love and mercy.

God rejoices along with His angels when we come to Him asking for forgiveness. That little earthly joy that we feel when we’ve found something that was lost is a tiny, pale, washed-out imitation of the joy that fills all of heaven when someone returns to God in repentance. Heaven’s door is open to anyone who turns from their sins and receives the grace of Baptism. Don’t think that you aren’t always welcome in your Father’s house.

“We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”
—Anton Chekhov

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