“The Goal of Seeking the Lost”
September 11, 2016: The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 19)
Exodus 32: 7 – 14/ Psalm 51: 1 – 10/1 Timothy 1: 12 – 17/ Luke 15: 1 – 10
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
As we begin, lay your hands upon your heart and say this prayer, “Lord God, You are the truth and You speak truth. May my heart be open today to listen and to hear the truth, Amen.”
We must begin to take our Christianity seriously because the Christian journey in Ordinary Time is a journey in the kingdom of God. It is a journey, a passage, a life, although filled with a lot of challenges, difficulties, trials, and yet, it is a life bursting with abundant provisions. When we gather each Sunday, we gather together, ascending step by step towards the fullness of the Kingdom. We must not see the Mass, the readings, the homily that we have each week as isolated activities that we need to complete or are obligated to perform and get over with. They are not detached from each other.
Last Sunday is connected to this week, and we must see each Sunday as an unbroken chain of progressive movements that build up each week, each month, and each year of our lives. To miss the intention of one Sunday’s assembly is to weaken that chain in our lives, and thus deprive us of the complete blessings which God intended for us to live His life here on earth. It should be an unbroken chain each week, and if we break it, it is no wonder many people live today in misery although they are Christians.
The Sundays in this Season bring out the responsibilities we are to take. Last week, we were challenged to give our everything, our all in following Christ as His disciples. There were two personalities that were mentioned in the gospel last Sunday: the builder of a tower and the king with his army out to do battle. These are the two activities that are involved in the kingdom of God – building and fighting. The Kingdom-life is a dynamic, vibrant, and an energetic lifestyle. I wonder sometimes why people tell me that Christianity is boring. It is boring for some because they have not plunged into the sea of Christian excitement or jumped into the arena of the Christian life where all the action is. They have remained a passive spectator in the stands rather than an active participant in the actual "game" of life.
Today, we move to another phase in our journey. Our participation goes into higher gear, and we are called to level up, to intensify our involvement in the work of Christ. In fact, this morning when I woke up (and this is something which I recommend to you) part of my prayer is something like this, “Dear Father, I know You are continually at work in this world. I know that You plan to do some cool, awesome, and exciting things in the lives of people today. If it pleases You, Lord, I ask You to involve me in these things which You will do today. Let me into what You are blessing today, and the things that You are at work in."
This is our vocation. This is the reason for our existence: to participate in God’s saving work. In
1Timothy 1:12 (NIV), Paul said, “12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to His service.” This verse unveils Paul’s attitude and his understanding of the joy of participation; the joy we have when we are doing the work of God each day in people’s lives. This is where we must begin each day of our lives.
Our gospel today in Luke 15:1-10 are two parables, but they are connected together and they have a common thread. They are connected by this conjunction “OR” in verse 8. We see two scenes: the scene of the tax collectors and the scene of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Jesus presents to the religious leaders what the essence of true religion is. Why do we go to Mass? Why are we Christians? Why do we say that we believe in God?
The scene presented is a scene of contrast. One is a seemingly religious, seemingly godly group, yet powerless, impotent, immobile, static, busy with ceremonies and rituals of religion holding to a form of godliness, but yet denying the power. The other side of the scene is a group where Jesus is in, actively engaged with the outcasts, the sinners, the marginalized, and those considered by society as the least, lost, and lonely.
Both of these parables describe the intensity and passion which each “hero” (good shepherd and the woman) portray something that we must begin to bring into our lives. This is the intensity and the passion towards something that is lost. They also portray the resulting emotion expressed when we find the thing that was lost. The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep with his other fellow shepherds; he embarks on seeking for this lost sheep. He was relentless, untiring, and persistent in his pursuit to find the lost sheep. Then, there was the inexplicable joy he has upon finding the lost animal where he wants to share that joy with others. In verse 8, the woman who lost her silver coin and the verse says that she searches carefully. One translation says that she searches and looks for it intently for it in every nook and cranny, from top to bottom of the house until she finds it.
Among many things, these 2 parables describe the value, the worth, the importance to Christ of every human soul. How valuable is a human soul to Christ. He makes no distinction; he makes no qualification. The person could be a kind, devout, rich businessman who thinks he has everything he needs. It could be the notorious, vicious criminal – maybe a murderer, a serial killer, a rapist, or a drug pusher who has no concern for the life of his victims. The soul could be a man who may be nice and lovable, a model student, a kind child, or he can be a rebellious brat, the black sheep of the family, an irritating neighbor, a reckless bus driver in EDSA, a jeepney driver in your barangay, a corrupt politician, a beauty queen, a movie star, or a beggar in the street. He could be a strong athlete, an AIDS victim, a cancer patient, a robust laborer. He could be your officemate, your classmate, your schoolmate or yoursuki. He could be anyone. In Christ, all of these are precious, prized treasures that He gave His life for. The value of a soul is so precious that He is willing to sacrifice His eternal position in the heaven, to take the fall, to die a death which we deserved.
The two parables also show the explicable joy that marks the kingdom of God that when a man turns to Him, all of heaven rejoices. It is what Calvary is all about, “Who for the joy set before Jesus, endured the cross, despising the shame.” It is not about the suffering but the joy. It is not about the persecution but the joy. It is not about the difficulty but the joy.
This is the story of the parables, but it is not only just the parables, but this is the story of you and me, today. There can be no greater honor, no greater glory, no greater sense of fulfillment and feeling that our lives could have some meaning and significance in this earthly existence when we accomplish God’s desires and when we share the joy that only He can give.
As God’s people, called by His Name, recipients of His life and love, we have a calling, a holy, Divine mandate to share this blessing of the good news to others. If you are a scientist or someone who discovered a cure for AIDS or Cancer, it would be wrong, even immoral and criminal for you to withhold that knowledge when it could benefit so many people. In the same token, we who have more than just a cure for a deadly disease, we who have the gift and power of life, we who claim to be conquerors and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, we who have been born again and are saved, we who attend every Sunday and partake of the blessings of God, we are called to possess in our hands the responsibility for others to enjoy the same life and privilege that we enjoy each day.
In Romans 10: 13-15 (NASB) says, “For Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” In the Message Translation, it says, “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help. But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 Living Bible (TLB), “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! 18 All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. 19 For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” What God gives us is not limited to blessings like a car, a career, but He has given us the power and ability to share the word to others.
John 20:21 New International Version (NIV), “Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 15:16 New International Version (NIV) “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
We live in a world where we have been shaped to think and to live each day, engrossed and absorbed with many things that do not last. Let’s ask ourselves these questions. Who can remember who won the Olympic gold medal in swimming in Atlanta 1996?” Or the basketball in Athens Olympics in 2004? Who topped the BAR in 2013? Who owns the most expensive car in the Philippines? Who won the UAAP championship in basketball in 2007? Very, very few, if any, would remember or would know. No one even cares. Because, nice and good as these things are, these things we aim to accomplish in this earthly life will not last.
Before the end of one generation, no one will even remember or be affected by it. They will not stand the crucible of eternity, and yet, we spend so much energy, so much time, and so much resources to achieve human emblems and these icons of fame. People shout their lungs out when they watch their winning team play. We become emotionally driven following today’s hottest movie star. We define success in these terms but they do not really last. In reality, these things are not success. They should be more accurately defined as accomplishments or achievements. Success, in the biblical and Kingdom terminology is defined by God. God defines success as bearing fruit that will last.
The things that will last are the things in the kingdom of God. We have an everlasting Kingdom. This is why we pray, “Glory be to the Father…as it was in the beginning and now, and ever shall be, world without end…” This reminds us that this is the place where things will last forever. There are two things that will last in this Kingdom: people and truth. People, human beings, souls are those that are part of God’s Kingdom that will last. When we invest our time with people, we invest for eternity.
One day, your diploma that you worked on for so many years will be forgotten. Who cares if one’s father or great grandfather finished medicine or law? This is where we are misled in today’s corporate world, where career and profession outweighs family and children. There is a sub-conscious attitude in our world today to focus on career rather than on relationships and to substitute material possessions and earthly achievements for friendship and personal involvement. Yet, truth be told, it is people, not any achievement, diploma, career or not any gadget that will last. It is people that will last.
That is why Jesus is so intense about people and with human souls. This is why we proclaim that all life is sacred. We believe this in our Church. We are talking about eternity here, not ten or twenty years. This is what will really last, and they are the ones we must give of ourselves.
As a church, we must begin to re-think our activities to make sure that we bring each member of this community, of this Church, to a living and vivid understanding of the need, the desire of our Lord for us to share the gospel of the Kingdom, and to make people aware of the precious faith we all enjoy.
It brings great delight to the heart of Jesus, just as what we saw in the 2 parables, to see people come to the knowledge of the truth; to receive the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to all. If we really want to bring delight to the Father’s heart, if we really want to bring joy to Jesus, if we are serious in making an impact in our lives, we must be busy sharing the good news to people.
The cool thing about this, the great aspect of this work of sharing the good news does not only bring joy to the Father, but it fulfills our lives. It brings joy to us. Finding the lost sheep brought joy to the shepherd. We come to find significance in our lives, and a reason for living. This is for everyone – not just the clergy, missionaries or the pastors, but for every believer, the ordinary people empowered, energized by the Holy Spirit to make visible the hope of the kingdom of God to those we come across.
This has been the heart of this Church, the Cathedral of the King, the Christian Life Fellowship during our beginnings in the 1980s. We would saturate what is now known as Glorietta mall in Makati with men and women who have this yoke of Christ to share the gospel. We would go to universities and colleges in almost every portion of the city. In fact, some of you here today are here because someone shared the message of the Kingdom to you. In a span of 1981 to 1984, three years, we had worked in San Pablo, Sorsogon, Kalibo, Antique, Cebu, Muntinlipa, and Oroquieta. In 1983, we had worked in Madrid. In 1984, it was in Paris, and then, Bonn, Germany, and Hong Kong. In a few years later, we had worked in Gingoog, Cagayan de Oro, Tangub, in Batangas, in Sariaya, in Cavite and the list goes on.
Where did we lose it, Church? We have this mandate with us. You might say that you do not know how. Do not discount the fact that the Church must train its members on evangelism and discipleship. But what I am saying is that in the little that we know about Christ, we can take the “baby steps” and begin to share Him with others. Who among you took a class or a course on how to share the MegaSale in MOA? No one! Who among you will take a four-year course to share with your friend a favorite restaurant that you ate in and the benefits of eating there?
The good way to start was in 1980, but the second best way to start is NOW. Let us start by: one, by praying for laborers. Beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send more laborers. Two, by giving to support the Church’s mission. Three, by going where we are already are present. Fourth, by saying to Christ, “LORD, here I am send me!” Isaiah 6:8 in the NIV says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”