We are the real people of the circumcision, we who worship in accordance with the Spirit of God; we have our own glory from Christ Jesus without having to rely on a physical operation. If it came to relying on physical evidence, I should be fully qualified myself. Take any man who thinks he can rely on what is physical: I am even better qualified. I was born of the race of Israel and of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless. But because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages that I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:
‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.
‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’
“… Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”
Those of you reading this blog regularly will know that I stopped going to church briefly when the news of our Catholic Church’s scandals came to light. I have since found my way back to mass, albeit a little warily. The distrust that I feel for the ruling priestly elite hasn’t gone away. You can say that I have taken to heart Paul’s advice to “not put confidence in the flesh”. I am a committed Catholic. I identify myself as Catholic. I’m not afraid to speak of my faith, even now with all the scandal surrounding our Church. Outwardly, I tell everyone that this is surmountable, that we will emerge from this a stronger body of believers. But privately, I feel lost, like the proverbial sheep. The trust between myself and the political institution that is the Catholic Church has been broken. So, going to Mass has become challenging. Like the wife who has been cheated on, or the child whose innocence is lost, I am there physically — but things are not the same.
I have been re-reading the Bible a lot, grasping for a sign, for something. It’s ironic how familiar verses speak new meaning to us when our circumstances are different. I yearn for the homecoming that is described in today’s gospel, that great rejoicing when the shepherd finds his lost sheep. But to what exactly am I coming home to? God’s Church has been defiled. If this is our threshing moment, when wheat is separated from chaff, what will God’s Church look like when it is all over? And with all this anger, frustration and disillusionment in my heart, will there still be a place for me with Him?
As if to throw me a lifeline, God has led me to a small community of women that has formed within my own parish. We seem to all have this in common, this feeling of being scattered like sheep. We spend one morning a week, praying, poring over the Bible, processing our feelings of confusion about this whole thing – who knew what when, and what did they do about it. This must be what a support group feels like. Wow, am I thankful for it!! I’ve also taken to reading up on the history of the Catholic Church. We seem to go through cycles of renewal and purification; perhaps we are in the throes of one now. I wonder how it ends.
Christ’s words from the Book of Matthew have never been more significant to me than right now – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves… a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7: 15-20). If this is to be a threshing moment for all believers, I hope that at the end of it, I will not be found wanting. I pray that God will help me to process these feelings I hold in my heart, so that going to Mass becomes less of a struggle. Because I want that homecoming, to be that lost sheep that is found. I want to reclaim that trust that was lost. Don’t we all?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who are working towards healing the Church and restoring its credibility with believers.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people that God puts in our lives to get us through difficult moments.