The Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke is familiar to all of us, as we are all in need of our savior. The Prodigal son has the nerve to ask for his inheritance even before his father has died. Then without thought or good conscience he goes out and spends every last penny on those things that only the world could offer. Not until he is confronted with hopeless failure and a deep despair, does he yearn to return home, to his fathers embrace.
Repentant and willing to do anything possible to win back his father's love he begins his journey back home. . . as he approaches his home to his surprise his father comes running towards him with open arms.
He embraces his son, glad that his son has returned home to him, and giving no mind to what he has done or what he has failed to do. Its a breathtaking story of God's mercy for all of us, God's patient grace, and His willingness to welcome each of us home into His loving and forgiving arms forever.
"For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
The Shame of the Cross
Jesus has many who love his heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his Cross, Many want consolation, but few desire adversity. Many are eager to share Jesus' table, but few will join him in fasting. Everyone would be glad to rejoice with him, but not many are willing to suffer for him. Many will follow Jesus as far as the breaking of the bread, but few will stay to drink the cup of his passionate self -sacrifice. Many are inspired by his miracles, but few accept the shame of his Cross. Many love Jesus as long as they have no troubles. Many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him. But if Jesus hides himself, leaving them even for a brief moment they start complaining and become dejected.
But those who love Jesus for Jesus' sake, and not for any special privileges, bless him in all difficulties and anguish, as well as in times of great comfort. Even if he should never comfort them again, they would continue to praise him. What astonishing power rests in the pure love of Jesus that is not corrupted with self-interest or self love! One term describes those who are always lovers of comfort: mercenary. Don't they show themselves to be lovers of self rather than Jesus? All they care about is their own advantage, profit and glorification. Where can we find anyone who is willing to serve God for nothing? It is rare to discover someone so spiritual! Do you know anyone who is truly poor in spirit and free from dependence on any created thing?
Such a person "is worth far more than rubies!" (Prov 31:10) "If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned" (Song of Songs 8:7). And if someone tries hard to make amends for all of his sins, he still has a long way to go. And if he is exceedingly virtuous and glowing with devotion, an essential ingredient is still lacking. What must he do? He must give up everything, especially himself, retaining no trace of selfishness. And when he has done everything required of him. He must consider it as nothing. He must not agree with others when they applaud him, but rather admit that he is actually an ordinary servant
In the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:10-14) the Pharisee was an honest man and very religious. Note that he fasted twice a week. According to Jewish law only one day in the year was an obligatory fast day. He paid tithes on his income, i.e. gave away 10%. He was probably much more religious than any of us. However he was proud, he was using religion to box God in. He was using his religious practices to keep God at a distance. It is easier to give donations than to love. When we give a donation it is over quickly but there is no end to loving others. God is asking us to love, it would be easier to give an offering. Being better than others is not what matters but becoming more like God. The prayer of the tax collector reminds me of the prayer of the Mass “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”. The parable calls us to be humble, let God be God and not pretend we are God.
“The proud cannot bring themselves to hold out empty hands to God, they insist on offering virtues, good works, self denials, anything in order not to have nothing. They want to be beautiful for him from their own resources, whereas we are beautiful only because God looks on us and makes us beautiful. God cannot give himself to us unless our hands are empty to receive him. The deepest reason why so few of us are saints is because we will not let God love us. To be loved means a naked, defenceless surrender to all God is. It means a glad acceptance of our nothingness, a look fixed only on the God who gives, taking no account of the nothing to whom the gift is made. To lose ourselves like this is the most radical of despoliations because the last shred of self-importance is discarded. The very words and acts of humility can be a barricade of well-nigh infinite subtlety. Jesus came to us precisely to break down the bars, something we could never have done of ourselves. Yet we cannot live the life of Jesus unless we consent to leave our own pitiful lives, and this is what pride finds unendurable. Striving for ‘perfection’ is the most disastrous of the mistakes good people fall into. It feeds the very vice it intends to destroy. Most fervent souls are prepared to give God any mortal thing, work themselves to death, anything except the one thing he wants, total trust: anything but surrender into his loving hands. ‘You must become as little children’, whose one virtue is that they know they are unimportant.”
(above taken from Guidelines for Mystical Prayer pages 83-84 by Ruth Burrows, published and copyright 1976 by Sheed and Ward and used by permission of the publishers.)
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