Today’s Gospel is the story of the Prodigal Son – one of my absolute favorites.
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Why would God lower Himself to my level? That’s the way I used to read this. Today, I read this as Jesus loves me for my failures and wants to be by my side through it all (Thank you Lord). This reading is the epitome of forgiveness.
After I changed the way I analyzed that sentence, I was able to understand better that He loves us; no if’s and’s or but’s about it. That’s the simple truth…and way and life.
I’ll be honest, though. I have always, and I mean always, struggled with today’s readings. I have been the child that strayed away because of shame and selfishness and I have also been the sibling who didn’t understand why a father (or mother) could be so forgiving of my mistakes (or my brother’s or anyone else for that matter). I have been jealous of the forgiveness I have seen others experience. Not because I am a mean person, but because I want to feel and understand that forgiveness myself.
Jesus wants us to strive to be more like Him. He wants us to see the way He loves us and encourage us to do our best to love others the same way without any hesitation, jealousy or judgment. Easier said than done though, right? Well, yes. But if we truly strive to search for the face of Jesus in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters, then we are already one step closer to being more like Christ.
Strive to serve. Strive to avoid judgmental thoughts. But above all, strive to love (yourself and others) – without any contingencies.
During Lent, one of the things that we tend to do is beat ourselves up about slipping up on our Lenten promises because that means you basically just lied to God and let Him down, yet again, right? Wrong, my friends! God knows that we are imperfect. That imperfection is why He continues to stick by our side. The fact that we are making an effort to serve Him and show Him that we are willing to sacrifice, as He did, is enough. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that our sacrifices are exponentially less intense than His ultimate sacrifice, but does that mean that our puny offerings mean any less to Him? No.
The fact that you put down that Coca-Cola because you want to show God that He is more important that that sugar-infused carbonation is enough for Him. The fact that you woke up an hour earlier to go to daily Mass once a week means the world to Him. The fact that you hit your knees to pray right when you woke up rather than grabbing your coffee first melts His heart. How incredible is that?
And yet we are still so hard on ourselves and others for mistakes.
What I have taken from today’s reading is that I need to SOAK HIS LOVE AND FORGIVENESS IN. Just let it soak in! This will take time and we are not expected to fully accept and understand the immense amount of love and forgiveness He has for us in just 40 days. That would be impossible. Soak it in one day at a time for the rest of your life. We can’t only focus on His love forgiveness for these 40 days. We have to acknowledge it daily and grow in it and in turn, grow more in love with our Father.
He loves you. He loves me. He loves us for our perfect imperfections. So, keep on keepin’ on and when in doubt, look up.
–Sarah Dixon is a 2012 graduate of Georgia Southern University and is the Assistant to the Editor for the Southern Cross Diocesan newspaper in Savannah, GA.