“In just the same way, it is not the will of your Heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost” – Matthew 18:14
The first day of school in my first year of teaching, I welcomed students into my classroom. The freshmen students appeared just as excited and anxious as I was. Theology class wasn’t one of the most exciting subjects they would have, but I knew that the first step in being a good teacher at a Xaverian school was to form relationships. I greeted each one by name and showed them their seats. All was going well until one young man, Paul, came in. Paul was very overweight and could not fit into any of the desks in the room. One student jumped in to offer help immediately and went across the hall to the Guidance Department to get a chair. The class bonded together as they showed dignity and respect to each other, especially to Paul in beautiful ways.
Paul lived with his grandmother and had to take two buses each way to school. He had difficulty interacting with his peers and stayed to himself quite a lot. To me, he was the lost sheep – the one who began to stray and become invisible. That class didn’t let that happen. Paul became engaged with the class. However, sophomore year was a different story. For some reason, Paul didn’t make it through that year. He left our school and I never did know why or what became of him for a long time, until about 15 years later. Our school participates in the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society, which assists in burials of those who are poor, alone, or experience homelessness. We provide prayer, serve as pall bearers, and comfort those who attend the burial. One day we received the name of someone we would be burying that week; it was Paul. My heart was filled with sadness at this loss of someone so young. This experience taught me to never lose sight of the invisible student in my class or someone who I may have not paid enough attention to.
Today’s scripture reminds us that those who have strayed must be sought out, and, if possible, brought back to the community, Paul went astray, but it was God’s providence that he be brought back to our community, even upon death. There are many times we see people on the side of the road seeking help. Do we try to be invisible to them? Do we pretend to not see them? Or do we find a way to look into their eyes and let them know we care, that they aren’t invisible to us?
Lord, help us to seek the one who is lost and do as our Heavenly Father asks… see them and bring them back to You.
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