Have you ever been lost? I don’t mean taking the wrong exit off of a turnpike, or even those times in childhood when you were briefly separated from your mother in a grocery store. I’m talking about a time when you felt totally lost, abandoned, and alone.
The summer before my senior year of high school, my older brother invited me to attend an outdoor concert with him and two of his friends. Awesome! I’d never been to a rock concert and the lineup of performers was a veritable who’s who of the rock world. He was a senior in college, and to this day I still don’t know why he extended the invitation to his totally uncool little sister. It hardly mattered; I’d have bragging rights with my friends for a very long time.
We arrived at the sold-out concert that evening without tickets, but we’d heard on the radio that a new batch of tickets was being released. My brother left me to wait in line at a ticket booth while he parked the car. He met me a bit later as I stood in line, and we secured four tickets. The sun was setting and the concert was about to begin. My brother gave me one ticket and told me to go find our seats. He’d be along as soon as his friends arrived.
Off I went, ticket in hand, to scout out our section, row, and seats, only to discover we’d been scammed. The seats were nonexistent. As the sun set and the stage lights went up, I began to wander the massive venue looking for my brother. As the music blared, I zigzagged back and forth for hours through a sea of seats, and blankets, and thousands and thousands of people. I was hungry and tired, and with no money and no idea where my brother had parked the car, I began to wonder how I’d ever get home. I was lost!
My brother found me just before the concert ended. He called out my name and I immediately recognized his voice. I ran to his arms and cried tears of joy and relief. I cannot recall a time, before or since, when my brother was as happy to see me as he was that evening. I know that for hours on end, he never stopped looking for me and he never gave up trying to find me.
That’s how I see our mission as followers of Christ — to follow His example. How do we follow Christ?
As disciples, we are called to seek the lost when they go astray, never giving up. This work is not just for bishops, or priests, or deacons. It’s our calling, too! We are called to keep each sheep in the flock safe and secure. That means that we are called to speak up for those whose voices are unheard — the poor and the marginalized, the children and the challenged.
This past weekend, we celebrated the Fourth Sunday of Easter — commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday. During the Liturgy of the Word, we sang and prayed Psalm 100, the response of which is, “We are His people, the sheep of His flock.” But how are we God’s people? How do we become one of His flock? How do we follow the Good Shepherd?
We do so by becoming a people of prayer! “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil 4:6).
We do so by becoming a people of faith! “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt 21:22).
We do so by becoming a people of trust! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Prov 3:5-6).
We do so by becoming a people of joy! Christ tells us that if we follow God’s commands, “My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
We do so by becoming a people of compassion! “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12).
But most importantly, we do so by becoming a people of love! Christ gives us the great commandment, “Love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12). When we extend Christ’s love to each person we encounter, we extend a love that is unconditional, merciful, and forgiving.
By incorporating these attributes into our lives, we become people of God and we follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd. We are called not only to follow Him, but to walk in His ways. We are called to seek the lost. We are called to protect and watch over all of His flock, and care for them when they cannot care for themselves.
Like Christ we must be willing to lay down our lives for them. And most importantly, we ourselves must heed the call of our Good Shepherd to come, to listen, to follow Him, and to share with Him eternal life.
“My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn 10:27).
Anchor columnist Ada Simpson is former editor of Ministry & Liturgy magazine, holds an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry, and is the director of Music Ministry at St. Francis and St. Dominic parishes in Swansea.