One of the truths revealed in today’s gospel (Lk. 15:1-10) is that our God is not a God content to let people remain anonymous. The shepherd goes out in search of the lost sheep because that one sheep truly matters to him. The woman turns the house over searching for the lost coin because that coin is of real concern to her. We are of concern to God. We are not alone in a vast universe governed by random chance. We do not have a God who does not care. God is willing to seek each one of us out, willing to even enter the darkness of sin and death, to find us and then rejoice in the finding!
But this truth also applies to us who are called to be God’s people in our world. The Christian community is not meant to be an anonymous collection of individuals made up of people without names and without love – separate and alone. Because we have been loved by God and sought out by God we must, in turn, strive to love as God loves and seek out as God seeks out. The community Jesus calls us to is not one of anonymous and separate persons but of brothers and sisters who know each other by name. Friendship and care must be at the heart of the Christian community but it needs to be noted that this friendship is not of our own doing or crafting. The friendship of the Christian community flows out of Jesus’ own call to his disciples and obedience to his Word. The origin of friendship in the Christian community is in God himself. This is a great mystery and it is a mystery we are called to live and it is a mystery we proclaim in front of a world that seems so intent on reducing the full dignity of the human person to just a caricature of the anonymous individual.
Every person has a name. Every person has a worth. Every person is valued and sought out by God. No one is left behind. We need to live this friendship of Christ as Church and, by so doing, witness to our world. For a Christian community to have the most beautiful sanctuary or the most active list of ministries without this friendship that seeks out is (to paraphrase St. Paul and our Lord himself) to be just a noisy gong, a clashing cymbal and even a whitewashed tomb. No life is ultimately produced.
The identity of the Church is not found by remaining within but is realized in mission. It has been this way from the very beginning with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the call to proclaim the good news to the ends of the world! We each have a name given by God and a task given by God, we only become who we are meant to be as we live the task we have been given. The Christian community only becomes who she is meant to be when she lives the friendship she has been given by Christ.
This friendship begins within the Christian community herself and then it goes out into the world. We must seek out one another. We must be of concern to one another. In order to be true to the gift that we were given (meaning being sought out by God himself), we cannot remain content in just being a collection of anonymous individuals. When we meet one another in the friendship of Christ we learn we can even look out on the multitudes of our world and see not just anonymous individuals who threaten my space and my freedom but brothers and sisters and the multitudes of people who are alone and suffering learn that they are in fact not alone and that there is a God and a people who seek to care and who seek to know their name.