November 5, 2015
by John Shea, S.J.
Creighton University's Biology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 488

Romans 14:7-12
Psalms 27:1bcde, 4, 13-14
Luke 15:1-10

Praying Ordinary Time

Exhausted after a long day at work, faced with a long list of chores at home, and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of her three kids, my mom would often exclaim in exasperation, “My life is not my own!” I didn’t help ease her frustration by responding, like a typical selfish teenager, with “When’s dinner?”

Today, as a Jesuit priest and biology professor, I find myself relating more and more to my mom’s sentiment: my life is not my own. I have responsibilities to the people of God whom I promised to serve as priest. I have duties towards my students as a professor. Even the various insects and snails in my lab demand my time and care. St. Paul reminds us that “none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself,” but we all live and die for the Lord.

Jesus tells us the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. These parables convey a God of insane and irrational love. A simple risk analysis would tell anyone that if you lose one sheep, you should just cut your losses and move on. If you leave the ninety-nine sheep to look for one lost sheep, then you risk losing more sheep to theft or wolves. The rational decision is to forget that one sheep. But Jesus’ parable suggests that God’s love for us is not rational. God rejoices in finding the one lost sheep.  

And a simple cost-benefit analysis would tell anyone that the effort in finding one coin is not worth the cost of lighting an expensive candle to look for it and then throwing a mini-celebration with friends and neighbors after finding the coin. No rational person would throw a party for finding one lost coin. The party would cost more than the coin! But God’s love is not rational and goes beyond our human calculus of love. And as Christians we are called to love as irrationally and foolishly as God.

I think that irrational and foolish love is the same kind of love my own mother, a widow and single parent raising three kids, modeled for me. I like to think that it’s the same kind of love I live out as a Jesuit priest and biologist. No matter what our vocation is, if we are leading authentic Christian lives, then our lives will not be our own. Instead, we will live and die for the Lord. We will lead lives of irrational and insane love for one another.

Today commemorates the International Day of Vocations in the Society of Jesus.

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