I know the joy of finding lost things that Jesus is talking about. When I was a boy we had to wear navy blue, clip-on bow tie at St. Joe Grade School. I had two of them and could never find them without my mother’s help. I also have a little rosary I found on a hillside road in Lewiston, Idaho. I always seem to lose it but then I pray to St. Anthony and it always miraculously returns.
Jesus is into finding people that we would call lost sheep: “I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” I sometimes think that our human life is like a movie and we are all simply actors. It seems that the angels in heaven are watching us, maybe even making bets when Christ isn’t watching, to see which sheep he will find next on the hillside.
We are all a prodigal son or daughter. We all go out in the world to find happiness in power, work, money, sexuality, or drink. We may refine our tastes and seek it in poetry, literature, music and art. We may try and find it in our spouse, children or friends. But if we are honest, we still feel unfulfilled, anxious, and joy and inner peace elude us much of the time.
We also have prodigal sons and daughters. If I had a dollar for every Catholic parent who has talked to me about a son or daughter who no longer practices the faith, I would be a rich. Parents blame themselves as if they did something wrong. Just keep praying. Christ makes a game out of finding lost sheep.
I read the other day about C.S. Lewis’ American wife, Joy Davidman, who was a writer and a dedicated communist. Her first marriage was to a man who was a writer, a womanizer, an alcoholic, and himself a former communist. They had two sons who helped to ground her, and she writes that she soon noticed “what neglected, neurotic waifs the children of so many Communists were.”
In 1946, her husband suffered an alcoholic nervous breakdown, which drove her to despair and a spiritual awakening. She writes: “All my defenses—the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God—went down momentarily. And God came in…There was a Person with me in the room, directly present to my consciousness—a Person so real that all my previous life was by comparison mere shadow play. And I myself was more alive than I have ever been; it was like waking from sleep.”
Life isn’t here to make us happy but to challenge us, so that we will surrender to God. When we are up against it, when our defenses go down momentarily, then God comes in. In my own life I’ve probably been the older son, always trying to please God by trying to be good. It never works. It wasn’t until suffering entered my life in the form of anxiety that I began to let God in. I remember sharing my tail of woe with my spiritual director. He smiled and said, “Well, Patrick, it’s a good thing this happened to you, otherwise you would be an arrogant son-of-a-fun.” I still struggle at times to trust that Christ loves me fully, exactly as I am right now. Still, I want to be more alive than I have ever been. I want Christ to illumine my mind and that is my deepest wish for you, too.
Christ did say, however, that if you want something, believe that you already have it, and it will be yours. So rejoice with me! We already possess our heart’s desire in Christ. The Person we seek is already within us, and when we awaken to his presence, our life until that moment will seem like a dream, a movie. The joy we seek is already ours and we taste this joy at Communion. Then Christ enters our hearts and says, “Rejoice with me. I have found my heart’s desire in you.”
Fr. Pat Neary, C.S.C.