As Franciscans, we were taught that nothing belonged to us. When I was a novice, we were taught not to put our names on anything like the front leaf of a book. Instead we were counseled to write, “For the use of . . .” followed by our name. Everything that we used belonged to the community.
When I served as Associate Novice Master I remember one particular occasion when a newly professed friar received a gift from his parents on the day of his profession. It was a rather costly studio recording device intended for him to use as he composed various musical pieces. He was very happy when he opened it and thanked his parents profusely. Later that day he came to me with a slightly worrisome look on his face as he said, “I have to ask for permission to keep that recorder, don’t I.” I smiled and simply replied, “You know what you have to do.” Happily, he asked permission and was allowed to keep it. After all, none of us was going to be composing and recording any music.
This story came to mind as I was reading the passage from St. Paul for today’s liturgy. “We are the Lord’s,” he writes. We belong to God. We are his possession, and we are a rather costly possession when we consider the price that Jesus paid for us.
We have all had the experience of losing something. It can be very disconcerting to misplace or lose something that we depend upon. So when we hear Jesus talk about the lengths to which God is willing to go to find one of the lost sheep, we realize once again just how precious we are to God. We are the Lord’s.
I suspect that the Pharisees who occasioned the parables that we hear today had lost that sense of belonging to God. They were so caught up in their own self-importance that they looked down upon those they considered sinners. This simply drove them even further away from God. Is it any wonder that they did not understand Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness? Today we give thanks for God’s possessive nature.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator