FR. JOE JUKNIALIS
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Acts 2:14, 36-41
1 Peter 2:20-25
Sometimes people seem to get lost on their way through life. I suppose it happens to all of us at one time or another, and it’s not that we don’t want to be found. We do, desperately so, only we don’t know how to go about it all. And so, sometimes we simply stay lost because it seems easier that way.
A California cousin called a few weeks back. She seemed lost amid her fears of the coronavirus, lost deep in the forest of it all.
For the better part of an hour I mostly listened because it seemed to me that was why she called and what she hoped I might do.
Sometimes we just need to tell somebody we’re afraid. After a good amount of listening had passed and once when she took a breath, I said to her, “Tell me something good that’s been happening in your life.” She paused, as if not knowing what to do with such a question, and then, just like that, relapsed back into her fears. It seemed that the mound of her fears was suffocating all that was alive in her. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and said we’d stay in touch, though after I’d hung up, I thought about how lost she must have felt. I’m not sure she realized it, and something in me wondered if maybe she did not want to be found, not lifted out of her fears. Sometimes it can be that way for all of us. Being found can be its own kind of pain. For her, maybe letting go of those fears and trusting that somehow life would turn out may have seemed more painful.
A magnet on our refrigerator says, “Not all who wander are lost.” Maybe so, but I think many of life’s wanderers do feel lost, and if they feel that way then they probably are. Some spend a good deal of time wandering through their memories. They find themselves lost in the nostalgia of times past, good as they were, but don’t know how to make the present just as good. Others wander through fields of daydreams hoping they might find a happy ending to what seems to them to be a mess of the life they live. Then, too, at other times, I suppose one can also be lost over how to get one’s teenager to cooperate just a bit, or how to keep the neighbor’s dog from barking at 3 a.m., or maybe even how to fall in love. Being lost has all sorts of paths.
The sage says, “Choose a map only when you know where you are going.” There’s a fair amount of wisdom in all of that. It’s good to know where it is we want to find ourselves and to name it – whether it’s escaping our fears or the messes of our lives or maybe even all the doubts and wonderings which we have about faith and being believers. Doubts, too, can be a kind of being lost.
But what do we do when we can’t seem to imagine what “where we are going” might look like, when we don’t seem able to name a place of safety and peace, when we don’t have a map? Isn’t that what being lost feels like?
And then every once in a while by the grace of God, someone finds us lost and wandering and brings us home, back to where we want to be. There’s no other way to describe it, then, except to call it a grace, something way beyond our own doing.
It is a curious aspect of this week’s Gospel that Jesus does not refer to himself as the shepherd who leads us. He says of himself, “I am the gate.” Who then is that shepherd who leads us back to life? I would suggest none other than our God, a God whose love we come to know through Jesus the Gate, the Door, the Way, the opening through which we sometimes stumble.
All I know is that when I’m lost it’s because I can’t find my way home on my own. And then something or someone happens that makes my life, well, livable again. You can call it what you will, but I call it being found and shepherded by God’s love. I think maybe it is what Peter in the week’s second reading refers to as having “returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
Have you ever felt lost and then found? How did that happen? Would your faith recognize it as God shepherding you home?
How are you in need of being shepherded at this point in your life?