Tuesday of the second week of Advent
The readings for the day can be found here.
Was I smug or just complacent? Or was I something else?
Today’s Gospel reading was one with which I had become quite familiar over the years. I could breeze through it. Jesus tells his disciples – and us – that a good shepherd will not just tend to the ninety-nine sheep in his care. He will go looking for the one that is lost.
Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciated the assurance Jesus gives each of us. In fact, I entreated Him to go after – to save – some “lost” people I know and care deeply for. But me? I was already found. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior. I would just hang back with my other ninety-eight sheep buddies who had had the same good fortune.
Then life struck. I experienced a series of hardships and then a tragedy that brought me, quite literally, to my knees. As in Isaiah 40:8, the grass had withered; the flower of my life had wilted.
But that’s not where my story ends. That’s where it begins.
On March 9, 2011, I decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service being held in, of all places, a courtroom in the university’s law school. As a Protestant, I didn’t know the Catholic liturgy. I didn’t know when to stand up (or if there had been a place to kneel, when to kneel), and I didn’t know the prayers and responses being recited by my students and others around me. It didn’t matter. In one moment – what I consider a sacred moment, everything congealed. “I’m home,” I thought to myself as the Eucharist, the very presence of Jesus himself, was being celebrated.
I am now a “Catholic in training.” I will become a member of the Catholic Church on Easter 2012. For me, it feels like I have been, since Ash Wednesday, in a period of perpetual Advent – a time of hopeful expectation.
When I entered that oddest of sanctuaries on March 9, I knew that I had reached a point in my life where I needed more than to hear about Jesus, pray to Him, and worship Him, as important as all of that is. I needed to be with Jesus.
But I confess that during that fateful service, I did not find Jesus. I, in my brokenness, was one very lost sheep. And He found me.
Lynn Branham is a visiting professor at the School of Law.