Lost and Found


Loss—everyone experiences it. Every loss has its own level of emotion.

There is the trivial yet less emotional loss like that felt by the whole state of North Carolina when Kris Jenkins’s three-point shot beat the buzzer and wrested the national champion championship from their grasp and gave it to Villanova.

The losses I am writing about, however, are the personal losses experienced when loved ones die or relationships end badly. The tightening of the chest and the moistening of the eyes when we wrap our arms around the dying form of a faithful pet is also an experience of personal loss.

lossApartment fires that harvest human life and destroy property in a random fashion or a tornado that rakes through a town destroying everything it its path deliver crushing losses in an instant. No one is exempt from loss. Admittedly, many losses are caused by the evil and violent actions of others.

Losing seems to be more a part of life than winning. People lose jobs. People lose assets. And there is no more despairing human sentiment than “all is lost!”

People handle their losses in many ways. Some folks find solace in the bottom of a bottle or in the medicine cabinet. Others find hope after loss in the company of friends and family. Prayer and silence are also aids in coping with the profound feelings that accompany loss.

At a time of communal loss, some folks show their mourning with somewhat ostentatious displays of sentiment such as piling flowers, notes, and stuffed animals at the site of a tragedy. We often see a little shrine appear at the roadside to mark the spot where a young couple died in a car crash. How may times have we witnessed the tears streaming down parents’ faces as they learn of the shooting death of their innocent children? What cosmic losses are the result of wars and insurrections, of ethnic cleansing and pogroms, of persecutions and exile?

Social media and 24/7 news cycles expand everyone’s participation in the losses of others. We stop in our tracks, and with fists clenched tightly to our lips, we watch the unfolding of an airline disaster or a train derailment. I would venture to say that not a single day goes by when we do not participate in a loss of our own or grieve with others who have come to know loss.

The Easter season provides a ritual antidote to loss. The one lesson of Easter is that there is hope for us all. Easter does not just commemorate one instance of resurrection over two centuries ago. Easter celebrates the new life that happens after all the little deaths and losses we experience. Easter is an everyday promise that we can pick up and move on after. Easter also urges us to be there for others in their losses as well. Our extended hands to those who have suffered losses and who have to cope with tragedy is our way of communicating the promise of Easter. Every time I show mercy and compassion to someone who is experiencing feelings of loss, I give witness to that life-giving moment when Jesus shattered the bonds of death.

In this Sunday’s liturgy, I am reminded of how some of Jesus’ disciples coped with their confusion and feelings of loss and even abandonment by going fishing. No matter that their luck was bad and there were no fish to be had. A compelling voice from the beach urged them to try another spot where they made a great catch of fish.

loss2When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
John 21:10-14

Sometimes the simplest of human gestures can be the most effective help to those feeling loss. Jesus helped his friends cope by preparing breakfast. Our greatest moments of evangelization can come when we reach out in simple kindness to others who are bent by the burden of loss.

The suffering of loss is often accompanied by the feeling that we too are somehow lost and adrift and alone. The personal experience of Easter is found in the words of John Newton’s classic hymn: “I once was lost, but now I am found.”

This Sunday’s psalm gives us words of hope, and also challenges us to minister to those who suffer loss:

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
Psalm 30:13

Easter is an attitude that no loss is forever and that every sadness can be turned to joy.

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About the author

Kevin Dowd holds a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard University and a master's in religious education from the former Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry (IREPM) at Boston College. Currently, Kevin is a Ph.D. student in theology and education at Boston College in the School of Theology and Ministry. ​A member of St. John's Catholic Church in Worcester, Kevin also teaches Catholic Social Teaching at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA as an adjunct professor in theology. Kevin speaks at various conferences throughout the U.S. on many topics, including his popular, "Using the Bully Pulpit: A Christian Ministerial Response to the Violence of Bullying in our Schools."