Imagine I take out a $5 bill from my pocket and offer it to you, free. Would you take it? Of course you would. Now, imagine if I say, wait a minute, and I crumple that $5 bill into a little ball. Would you still take it? Of course you would. Then, imagine I put it on the ground and I step all over it. Still take it? Of course. Now, imagine that I put it into my armpit after an afternoon in the hot Ecuadorian sun, and I rub it around good. I hold it out to you. Would you take it? Well, you might hesitate, but I’ll bet you $5 that you’d take.
And why am I so sure of all of that? Because no matter what I did to it, that $5 bill still is valuable, and you know it.
When I was coming back into the Church, I had a lot of undesirable habits. I had a big problem with chastity, and my regular drinking binges went all the way back to my teen years. With some good sarcasm and jokes, I could paint another person black if it meant laughs for everyone. And my pocket didn’t open up for the poor. These were old, crusty habits. But there was a priest who had a lot of influence on me in coming back into the church. He never mentioned anything about my sins, my failures, errors, what I was lacking or doing wrong. He let me into ministries. He always found the good in things, and that inspired me. And you know what, without me being so much aware of it, all those habits, all that dirt on my spirit, you know what happened? I just stopped doing them. Old dirty habits started to fade away. I was being cleaned. It was because that priest saw the good in me. He saw that I still was valuable.
For today’s Gospel, I have a question. What do you think the lost sheep is like when Jesus find it. Do you think he’s been lost in fresh streams of Irish Spring? And the shepherd throws him right on his shoulders. And the prodigal son, you know, where the young man has taken his share of his father’s inheritance, the guy who was feeding pigs and walks all the way by foot in the hot sun to his father’s house. He’s not smelling like Polo. Dirty and smelly, that’s how God takes them.
In the journey of life, we get dirty. We get crumpled up by the complexity of things and lose faith. Or someone we trust steps all over us and we lose self confidence. Or we steal or we cheapen up, we gossip, we say something to hurt someone else and our soul smells awful. We can think that we should be nowhere near God, that we need to clean up before going to Him. But that’s the best time to be with God. It’s best to come to Him dirty, He’ll take you. He’ll do the cleaning Himself.
Because God always sees the good in you.
He knows you still are valuable.
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Lk 15:2)