Saturday, March 23, 2024 – Day 39

March 23, 2024

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. —Luke 15:7

Here’s another reflection day that strikes home to me on this life journey! As a shepherd, how do I reach out and celebrate a lost sheep? Years ago, as a young priest in Vineland, a couple came to see me in preparation for their wedding. As we normally did, I interviewed them and asked them questions about their lives and their relationship to the Church. I eventually got around to the question of where they lived. They answered that they lived together. In those days, it was not common for a couple to live together. It was my first encounter with that answer!  Now what do I do?  I decided to call the diocese to get counsel from an official. His answer: “we have rules, stand strong and tell them they need to separate.”  I got off the phone and was unsettled with the answer.

I called back and the priest was unavailable, so the secretary put me on the phone with a higher up priest. I explained and he said, “Michael, read one of the parables. Read the prodigal son or lost sheep. What happened, they celebrated for the lost had been found.  It’s okay to let them know the church’s position, but don’t let them feel pushed away. They need you to carry them home.  Celebrate.”  I got off the phone and that’s my approach. I actually felt joy after that call. 

Michael White and Tom Corcoran offer these reflection question today:

What have you lost that you have felt responsible for? What did you do when you realized it was missing? 

How can we increase our sense of responsibility for reaching the “lost,” those people disconnected from Christ? 

Who is one person disconnected to Christ that you feel responsible for reaching and would rejoice if they came to know Jesus?

One of the shifts that most of us need to make is realizing the rules and regulations are important to bring order out of disorder. But they can be used and abused for personal gain, power and control. Jesus reminds us/me to go out and find the lost sheep, and also receive the prodigal child. 

I panic when I lose my iPhone!  I stop what I’m doing and go looking for it. When I find it, I thank God and continue on with the day. Until I lose it again …

They say that less than 25% of Catholics are connected to the Church. Of that 25%, a small percentage invest themselves into the life of the church. One of the reasons we asked our parishioners to consider this forty-day journey is to consider our responsibility to look for and invite the disconnected or lost to come and join our parish. 

Over the last four months, starting Spirit Alive, I rejoice when I come to the parish office and Ann (our parish office assistant) says I need to sign another welcome letter. Over that time, I’ve signed 65+ letters to new families!  We hope to invite them to a get together to share the parish vision and hear their hopes and dreams. We just need some “church people” to make it happen. Hint, hint!