There once was a little boy who loved a soft blue teddy bear and a plush green goose with all of his heart. They went with him everywhere he went, tucked safely under his arm. Like the velveteen rabbit, they showed signs of the little boy’s love. The bear especially wore his wounds as badges of honor. From his patched up eye and nose to the many surgeries necessary to keep his body put together, that bear was literally loved to pieces.
One day, the little boy lost his favorite friends. The search was frantic. The tears were many. The house and car were searched from top to bottom to no avail. The little boy curled up into a ball, inconsolable. Where could they have gone? A prayer to St. Anthony finally led to the missing toys. They were sitting on the bottom of the slide where they were left when his friend next door invited him over to play. The little boy ran out to them, scooped them in his arms and kissed them with all his might. What was lost had been found and there was indeed great rejoicing.
Chapter 15 of The Gospel of Luke shares three parables of items lost and found: the lost sheep, the lost drachma, and the lost (prodigal) son. In each case an item of great value is lost. Great sorrow and searching ensues, followed by celebration when the item is found. We all know the experience of loss. Whether it is a child losing a favorite toy, a worker searching for a misplaced paycheck, a mother searching frantically for a child who has wandered away in a department store, or a person missing a long-lost friend, we all know what it means to be sick with fright and worry over something missing. We are not the same until the missing something is returned to us. When it is, we want to celebrate! We share the news with all who are within earshot! What we lost has been found! Come share in our joy!
And so it is with God. Like the Good Shepherd, the woman searching for her lost coin, and the prodigal son’s father, God searches for us when we are lost. He knows the state of our hearts and waits eagerly for us to return when we stray away. When we do, there is great celebration! Like the little boy squeezing his stuffed friends tightly, God holds on to us with joy and welcomes us back into the fold. There is much rejoicing in heaven! May we give them cause to celebrate!