3 Thou dost
keep . . . in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in
4 Trust in the
LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
I was helping, well more like doing, my son's Bible homework for him this morning. His Bible version is ESV - English Study Version, and as you know mine is the regular edition of the New Jerusalem Bible from 1985. My version really messed up this verse in the translation. I was surprised by this. I base that on going to the Blue Letter Bible online reference. I was happy to find EWTNs browsable version, RSV-CE had it more literally to the Hebrew.
It is a blessing my version has it wrong though because I've been spending much time on this verse, sort of the Lord's way of using my curiosity, and impetuous internet research addiction to his purposes!
This is an amazing promise. The ellipse above is in place of "him". Him is not in the blue letter translation from Hebrew. I am not Miss Inclusive Language Lady, instead I am more The Bible is God's Personal Love Letter Lady but it is slightly quicker jump to insight that this Bible verse is meant for me, and meant for you---not just for this him character.
Do you want to take God up on his promise today, and for this Lent, when I think many of us crave the grace of Lent to do better returning love for the ineffable Love that was given and shown to us in the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ our Lord?
Lord, please keep my mind stayed on you. Lord, please let the streams of your mercy and grace, streaming from your pierced side fall on me. Forgive me that my mind too often does not stay on Thee. Forgive me that I do not strongly or consistently enough trust in you.
I do trust in you, my God. I desire this perfect peace. Please give me the grace this day, this Lent to keep my mind on you. You are faithful to your promises Lord. Thank you for this verse today!
Scott Hahn and his team need 10 years to complete the OT part of the Ignatius Study Bible. "Catholic commentary Isaiah 26:3" comes up empty with exception of being quoted in a blog.
Quick abbreviated commentary on Isaiah 26:3-4 from Smith, Chuck of Calvary Chapel.
WHAT IS MEANT BY PERFECT PEACE?
It means that there is no inner turmoil.
No frantic frenzy of activity "He that
believeth shall not make haste."
No anxiety or worry.
No striving against others, no competition or
seeking to control others.
A perfect inner rest.
An inner quietness.
HOW IS SUCH A CONDITION OBTAINED?
To have peace with God, Jesus Christ is a
necessity. "Having made peace with
God through the blood of His cross."
"The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus
Christ." “Peace leave with you, my peace give..."
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose
mind is stayed on thee."
How? Keep your mind stayed on God.
If your mind on yourself you desire to be
recognized or you desire to have.
The perfect peace is God's part.
Keeping my mind stayed on Him is my part.
If I do my part, I can be sure God will do His.
"Because he trusteth in thee."
Is God still on the throne? He who created, can He not sustain?
THE INVITATION TO PEACE
"TRUST IN THE LORD."
Put your trust in Him, He is worthy of your
Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace Peace with God in Christ through his blood, in a way of believing, and as the fruit and effect of his righteousness being received by faith; this is not always felt, received, and enjoyed in the soul; yet the foundation of it always is, and is perfect; and besides, this peace is true, real, and solid; in which sense the word "perfect" is used, in opposition to a false and imaginary one; and it will end in perfect peace in heaven: moreover, the word "perfect" is not in the Hebrew text, it is there "peace, peace"; which is doubled to denote the certainty of it, the enjoyment of it, and the constancy and continuance of it; and as expressive of all sorts of peace, which God grants unto his people, and keeps for them, and them in; as peace with God and peace with men, peace outward and peace inward, peace here and peace hereafter; and particularly it denotes the abundance of peace that believers will have in the kingdom of Christ in the latter day; see ( Psalms 72:7 ) ( Isaiah 9:7 ) : [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]; or "fixed" on the love of God, rooted and grounded in that, and firmly persuaded of interest in it, and that nothing can separate from it; on the covenant and promises of God, which are firm and sure; and on the faithfulness and power of God to make them good, and perform them; and on Christ the Son of God, and Saviour of men; upon him as a Saviour, laying the whole stress of their salvation on him; upon his righteousness, for their justification; upon his blood and sacrifice, for atonement, pardon, and cleansing; on his fulness, for the supply of their wants; on his person, for their acceptance with God; and on his power, for their protection and preservation; see ( Isaiah 10:20 ) ( 50:10 ) ( Psalms 112:7Psalms 112:8 ) : because he trusteth in thee; not in the creature, nor in any creature enjoyment, nor in their riches, nor in their righteousness, nor in their own hearts, nor in any carnal privileges: only in the Lord, as exhorted to in the next verse ( Isaiah 26:4 ) ; in the Word of the Lord, as the Targum, that is, in Christ.
(Colleen's Notes: Gill was strict Calvinist, so when he writes "fruit and effect of . . . righteousness received by faith" this is heretic from Catholic teaching. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and was sent in abundance by the Father after the Son's ascension into heaven. The Calvinists, Lutherans go off the track; i.e. heretical belief, when they view the work in our soul as rubber stamp of righteousness because of belief. But if you get past this---we are not righteous simply because of belief, the rest of this provides some great insights, as far as what is perfect peace, and how it does say peace peace and not perfect peace in the Hebrew as you'll see above. It is amazing though how often he departs from the actual text of Isaiah 26:3 to include and repeat the messages "the justification by faith", "righteousness received by faith". It seems like it is one thing to make some verses more important than others in the Bible and another thing to keep referring back to a fairly unrelated interpretation of a verse when doing commentary on another verse in the Bible, doesn't it? Need to remember to pray for Scott Hahn and his project! Believing is the first step toward receiving the redemption offered to us in John 3:16. Isn't there a difference between the purity of soul, and great love we see in models like Our Lady and some of the saints and upon whom God's favor is shown by the working of miracles, or an incorruptible body, than in a "believer" that is rubber stamped righteous? Certainly all goodness, love, purity of heart and intention, the grace to forgive and be forgiven is the gift of God's grace and not anything we can boast of. It can be achieved in a short span of time, or a long one as St. Therese prayed in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, "Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You." In case you are interested the Targum was the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible from the 2nd Temple period (516 BC - 70 AD).)
So sorry to those on Google Reader as I didn't think until after I was at Ash Wednesday Mass at noon that even if i remove a misthought post, it still stays out there in the syndication of Google Reader.
One of the quotes that I included in that post has thus been proven wrong. The quote, "The devil has one tool, deception." He has at least one other . . . . distraction.
One of the other quotes that is really a good one for beginning each day or even each part of the day, let alone beginning the season of Lent, "Attitudes are like diapers. They both need changed frequently or they begin to stink."
I may re-post some of those quotes again, it will be after organizing them and deleting any that do nothing more than make me half-smile at the wittiness. I was 8 minutes late for Mass because of that post. Silly me.
Priest did hit on the need to "fast" from distractions during Lent. That line was especially for me.
Last Ash Wednesday I was about to laugh in joy as I was following a friend, one I met through work, who was going up to get ashes for the first time in probably 18 years or so. Trying not to laugh because you can't contain the happiness inside is not the right facial expression for getting the mark of penance on one's forehead.
This year she wasn't with me, but I still looked around the church filled with joy as I had good, good reason to believe there was another, or 2, or 10 there, also for the first time in a long time. Church was packed, I was sure there must have been at least one. I saw a few possible candidates, but I didn't see anyone else like me from last year . . . someone whose face was in huge smile ready to burst into joyous laughter.
Guess the angels and saints don't have to worry about appearances or noise. They probably dance, sing, and shout for joy when they saw the converts show up today.
Last year I took quick stare at Jesus on the crucifix to get a wee bit of composure so the priest could mark my forehead without distraction. I imagine the Lord telling me now, "Yes, while meditating on my passion and crucifixion is good for your soul, as I told St. Faustina, it is also very good for you to rejoice that your God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is still very much at work pulling other of his beloved children back into his embrace. Including fallen away Catholics that don't remember how good and healing a good Confession is, and how good it is to receive their Lord in Holy Communion."
Immediately before telling the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus says:
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10
So needy So lazy So little self-control Not liking my current state Help, need Your Help Your Light Your Strength Above all Your Loving Presence Increase my Faith Lord, help me cooperate more fully, more deliberately, more faithfully with Your Grace The path is not unclear You are the Way, the Truth, the Life
Don't give up!
Keep trying! "Child, you are forgiven, and loved!" My loving glance is on you. I know you can't stand how inconsistent your behavior is with your desires. The desires I have given you. You want nothing less than Divine Union in your soul. You've read about it. You love me, but you hurt at how imperfect and unfaithful your love is. You hurt that you know you don't live like a representative of me. I love you. I am your Savior. Get up! Try again! My Holy Spirit is with you. Trust! Do what you need to. Plan your time for me. We have a great work to do in your soul, and in your life for my Kingdom. Behold - I do make all things new!
Lord, make me into a woman after your own heart, a woman who will be the lover of you, my husband, my children, my friends, and your friends, the way you will me to be.
This morning was my third visit as part of an Abortion Protest from my children's school to the Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois. Saturday mornings are very busy there, both with people visiting the facility and with the number of people across the road either praying the rosary with the Knights of Columbus, or picketing on the road, or holding signs directly across from the Planned Parenthood parking lot.
My first visit to an abortion clinic was with my Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church Right to Life group. That was called a "vigil", and we prayed for over an hour.
My next three visits were called Abortion Protests, which was ironic because my kids and I were the only non-Protestants in the group.
This morning before we left, one of the boys asked the Pastor, "Will there be 500 Catholics there praying like last time?"
I said, "Wow, 500! That would be great, but I think it will be more like 100."
The organizer of the trip said that I should think bigger!
The five high school girls and myself hold signs across from the clinic. Mine read, "Moms for Life". Most of the girls held up stop sign shaped signs that read "Stop, Abortion Ends a Life", except two held, "Planned Parenthood Lies to You". You'll find out at the end that it is a very effective witness for the young pregnant girls, going in for abortion, to see girls that are at or just younger than them standing outside in the cold encouraging them not to have an abortion.
The boys and men walk up and down the sidewalk on the other side of the field carrying signs too.
This might end up being my longest post ever. I will mention 4 people. You might want to read about 1 of them and then return at another time to read about the others.
If you don't like having painful, graphic images in your mind, which I am not going to show, just describe, skip until you see asterisks in a row:
When we came up there was a Randall Terry, Operation Rescue alumni that had a second sign. He had one the last two times we came with real aborted baby parts. This new sign was even more horrific: a larger than life severed head of an aborted late-term baby being held with medical tongs by the severed neck.
I stood on the end of the girls closest to the sign so they would not have to catch a glimpse of it too often. Father Frank Pavone says people have to see what abortion is to change their minds about it. My mind doesn't need to be changed about it. I don't like those signs. I bet they are effective, but I don't like them.
1) High school girl and boy doing an article for her public school' newspaper
"My friend, Adam (changed from another "A" boys name) and I would like to take pictures with you and ask one of you questions to do an article for our high school paper. Would that be OK?"
Me, "I think so, but let me make sure the other girls are OK with it. Girls, are you OK with these two high school kids taking your picture for an article in their high school paper?"
Pictures are taken. The girl leaves. Kind of interesting after that she ran off. She tells Adam to ask me some questions for the article.
Adam asks me lots of questions, and in between tells me quite a bit about himself. He is a senior, wants to be a fireman, was up to 2:30 in the morning shooting pool and playing guitar, and he lives very close to the center, just over a nearby hill. Some of his questions and my answers (A is him, M is me) follow:
A: Why do you think it is important to come out here?
M: Because we believe Thou Shalt not kill the innocent as God wrote in the 10 Commandments, and a baby inside a mother is an innocent and to kill her in the womb chemically or surgically is wrong. We believe that is a truth that many girls do not hear. Some kids in junior high or high school think since the baby is not breathing and is inside of liquid inside the mother that the baby is not alive.
Many of the girls driving up here are encouraged, even pressured into this decision. It is a decision that cannot be undone and may burden and sadden them the rest of their lives, especially when they see other babies or children.
We want to let her know that she can get non-judgmental help for her and her baby, and that there are other options besides taking her baby's life.
I know a couple women that have had abortions and it is something they regret profoundly later on. They can find forgiveness but there can remain a deep sadness that resurfaces throughout their lives. The people on staff inside PP don't mention that to the girl. Instead they offer her a fresh start, pregnancy free. That is hiding the longer term burden she will carry after she leaves the center.
A: Is a miscarriage the same as an abortion?
M: No. Miscarriage in the first 10 weeks is very common, and that is often why a pregnant woman will wait until after she hears the heartbeat before she'll tell people that she is pregnant. Doctors actually tell her this, so that if she does have a miscarriage she has the option of private grief.
A: My mom had a miscarriage. She didn't tell me until I was 15. I remember her spending a week lying in bed and that was when it happened.
M: She probably had pain and sadness that kept her in bed. Miscarriages are very sad.
A: Do you believe abortion is wrong in all circumstances?
M: For me, yes. It is important though not to judge people, especially victims of violent crimes like rape and incest. If I were the victim of rape or incest, I would not kill the baby. It is a second act of violence. Healing is needed from the first violent act, and violently ending the life of a child is not a way of healing. Also, I know someone that was told by doctors and specialists that her baby had severe genetic abnormalities. They took her to an institution and showed her kids with the same condition (I still don't know what the name of this was) and told her the baby would have a life attached to machines, be on pain medication, and would be unable to communicate whether or not the pain medicine was working. She was furious when they told her. She wanted hope. For her it was not abortion it was medical termination that ripped her heart apart, but that she did to save her daughter from what the specialists had showed her. I do not judge her.
A: Yes, that is the one I was really wondering about, more than the rape and incest cases.
M: Then there is Rick Santorum. He has a little girl, Isabella that has Trisomy 18. This is a serious genetic disorder that doctors say gives only a 10% chance of survival in the first year of life. This is worse than a diagnosis of Downs Syndrome. There is probably high percentage of abortions, medical terminations after this diagnosis. Santorum and his wife did not want to abort their daughter. The child is 3 or 4 now. So while I don't judge my friend or victims of rape or incest, I think if you have been loved by God, loved by Christ, have known the love of a father or mother, and you really have faith in a loving and Provident God, then even in the case of rape or incest I would have the baby. I've had four children and I never did any genetic testing because I told my doctor none of that mattered. Regardless of what was found I would be having the baby. It takes a strong faith and trust in God to have a child that the doctors say will not live long, and may suffer much before dying. In so many cases though, the lives of all around a special needs child are incredibly blessed and transformed by the presence and great love and innocence of the child they did not abort. (yes I was just as long-winded in person as I am in my blog!)
A: A couple of years ago in school I had to represent the pro-choice position. The main thing they say is that pro-life people are judgmental.
M: That is easy to fall into, especially if everyone you know shares your faith and beliefs and values. But it is wrong, Jesus tells us not to judge. The way to persuade people is through love and understanding and compassion. I used to use the word murder regularly when talking about abortion. Then I met the friend I told you about earlier. I used that word with her and it hurt her, and knowing already how much pain losing her daughter caused her I very much regretted using that word, being so insensitive to her pain, being so ignorant to the impact of that word on someone who was as pro-life as I was, before being confronted with the diagnosis.
He was a good kid. I liked talking with him
2) 21 Year old Catholic Catechist Holding Framed in Glass Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I don't have to change this guy's name, because I neglected to ask it. Ironic after my love and compassion talk with Adam. He was reflecting the sun at the people walking in and out of the center so that the light was shining into their eyes and they would maybe look over at where it was coming from and see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He said he knew it was a little rude, but that his mother said this image is powerful enough to stop abortion. He said that when Aztec Juan Diego saw the vision, there was human sacrifice, often of children occurring. After the miracle of her image on the tilma, over 6 million natives were baptized Catholics, and human sacrifice ceased. He said abortion is human sacrifice to rid the woman of inconvenient pregnancy. He said he teaches 15 year olds that are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. He says to him it isn't as important that they understand the Immaculate Conception dogma, but that they understand that even if they do not remain chaste, that they need to know Jesus still loves them and he doesn't want them to ever commit the sin of abortion. They can always come back.
3) Approximately 35 year old man with two kids in his back seat. One his son, the other a friend of the son.
Man: Would one of you explain to my 10 year old son what an abortion is?
The girls, "Why don't you tell him, Mrs. S?"
Without further thought, I said, "You know how when a woman is pregnant she as a baby inside of her?"
Me: Well an abortion is when the woman doesn't want to be pregnant anymore so she goes to a place like that (pointing across the street) and either takes medicine or has an operation to kill the baby inside of her and to remove it from her body.
Man: I agree with you that abortion is morally wrong, but I don't agree that there should be a law against it. I don't believe there should be a law against you standing there holding signs either. That is free speech. That is your right. 21 Year Old (he was still beside me) Well we believe in the sanctity of life. The truth is this is wrong.
Me: It's the same as when people in this country thought Africans were 3/5ths of a person. It was a truth that this was wrong. It should not have been legal for them to be kept and held and treated as property. We are like the abolitionists then. We are trying to stand up for the truth. An unborn baby is 5/5ths of a person, and just as it is unlawful to kill one of us, it is unlawful and wrong to kill an unborn baby.
Man: I believe you, but I don't think there should be a law. Ok, I'm a Liberterian, and there are too many laws. We need more freedom.
Me: There are laws preventing theft . . .
Man: (Interrupting me) But they don't prevent it. The laws in this state allow for all kinds of corruption that steal money from us.
Me: We have policemen to protect and stop violent crime. We have teachers, principals, guards in our schools to stop fights in schools.
Man: But they don't. Bullies are a big problem, and no one is doing anything about it.
Me: Yes, I know. We had some of that in my kids' previous school. We had speakers and such come in. I had to talk to some girls on my basketball team.
Man: But we shouldn't have a law. Pro-choice people are not pro-abortion, they are pro-choice, no law against it.
Me: But it is an act of violence. We protect our children from other children and other violence. Why would our country condone the violence of killing an unborn child?
Man: What about if a woman's life is at stake? Would you want a law to prevent the doctor aborting the baby to save the mother's life?
21 year old: There are some women with cancer that forego treatment to save the life of the baby.
Man: But that is her choice . . .
I had to leave at this point, and said good-bye because it was time to return our signs.
We said the Our Father with the Catholics (remember I was with the Protestants today), and I went and did the sign of the cross and everything! At our kids school they never say the Our Father and they don't make the sign of the cross before and after they pray. It is so strange. Sometimes I slip, sometimes I slip on purpose.
4) Elderly man with blue blocker shades
An elderly man came up to me when we were leaving.
E: Weren't you here on November 17th?
Me: Yes, I think so. We come around the 20th each month.
E: Well your white bus had just pulled away when two girls walked out of the clinic and drove out and talked to us. They said they were in there for a half hour, but seeing the girls standing out there with the signs got the one who was pregnant thinking. She decided to not have the abortion, and she was happy. I was hoping I would see you here again so I could tell you. I've been coming here for years, but that is the first time I was here when a woman changed her mind to not have an abortion.
I told the kids all about it when I got on the bus. They were so happy. They were high-fiving each other that they made a difference! They made plans to get more kids signed up on their Facebook group page so they could remind people to set their alarms the night before the next visit. They are going to tell the 7th - 12th graders at the next chapel about the good news.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Karinann from Daughter of the King has tagged me for this simple meme. Simple meme is about all I can handle right now. Karinann mentioned as her third selection, Secret Diary of Elisabeth Lesur. I need to read this book so much! I started reading it from the back and I think her advice to her niece on how to be a calm woman scared me off, as it seemed so foreign to my personal experience. Besides Karinann, this book has been recommended by many blogging women and I need to see this reoccurence for the Holy Spirit reading to-do hint that it is! For this meme, I need to name three of my favorite religious books and then tag three others to do the same. Like Patricia mentions at I Want to See God (and I DO!), most of us in this Catholic Blogging Community have many, many more than 3 favorite religious books. So to aid me in this meme, I would say that if I was being shipped somewhere and could only take 3 books with me--e.g. God told me he willed for me to live for awhile as a hermit and could only take 3 books with me, well, these would be the three, at this point in my life:
Simply beautiful translation enhanced with beautiful, soul stirring meditations on scripture in the Old and New Testament by the Saints. There is also beautiful 20 lesson section on why the Saints stress the importance of Scripture. All of my favorite Saints were included: St. Therese, St. Teresa, St. Faustina, Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jean Chantal, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Bonaventure, St. Basil, St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, and MORE! All in one volume, the Word of God, and the meditations of the Saints under the influence of the Holy Spirit while writing their meditiations. I love this and this is the one book if I only could bring one somewhere that I would bring.
The Better Part: A Christ Centered Resource for Personal Prayerby Fr. John Bartunek, LC. The first part explains the importance and method of meditative prayer. The remainder is 4 meditations each on short passages from the Gospels. All four Gospels are contained in their entirety. I am just finishing the Presentation passage in Luke. This book will be a source of amazement to you, as it is written under the anointing of the Holy Spirit by someone with the gifts of Understanding, Wisdom, and Counsel. I have a tendency to scan and the meditations slow me down. If I write what I highlight, I really gain, from the Holy Spirit, deeper and relevant to my life now, and the lives I am connected to, insights. The prayers for beginning and closing the meditation prayer sessions are also quite beautiful.
Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat written by Fr. Michael Gaitley is great synthesis of the spiritual lessons of St. Ignatius, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Faustina (including topically organized selections from her Diary in an appendix), and St. Louis de Montefort. There are beautiful meditations in the book and beautiful prayers and helps to living a deeper, more meaningful spiritual existence with the purpose of Consoling the Heart of Jesus.
"Women's Health and well-being" is not the same as subsidized and readily available morning after, and week after, and surgical forms of abortion.
Is there anyone applauding this misapplication of the math transitory property? It is mildly offensive because of the illogical nature of the statement.
I hate seeing the horrific pictures of the aborted baby's mutilated bodies. I have them in my mind now, so when that is called "women's health and well-being" i have a similar screaming yuck in my head and viscerally in my stomach.
How is making a decision easier and cheaper that cannot be unmade, and will have lasting emotional impact on the ones making it good for the woman's health or well-being?
If the baby being aborted, chemically or surgically is female, it certainly is disastrous for that female's health and well-being.
These statements deeply offend and anger me. I guess I shouldn't be angered by them. It is out of my control. I just can't stomach that they are misusing language, using terms that everyone likes--"health", "well-being" to hide the immorality and evil that is actually occurring.
How do we get them to stop saying that b.s.?
Yes, prayer, and I do believe spending hours in adoration, and praying a rosary, seeking Mary's intercession for an end to this evil in our country, and a changing of the minds and hearts to recognize the evil.
Also there is voting. I do not get not voting. Voting does work. Who likes the Obama Administration the most? There is an argument for anyone in the abortion industry in this country and around the world, where our dollars are used to provide women's services inclusive of abortion. Oh, and the population control people, too. They are very concerned we will not have good air to breath if people continue to reproduce at the same pace.
We do need to ensure we get this administration out no later than inauguration day in January, 2013. I am all for sooner, non-violently of course, but that is unlikely as anyone this skilled at "messaging" will likely avoid impeachment.
Thank you to all those that march, and pray outside of the abortion centers, and counsel, and pray, and pray . . . . God's will be done, and may the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary triumph!
Two Sundays away from "The Great Fast" in the Eastern Rite and Two Sundays and 2 weekdays away from Ash Wednesday in the Roman Rite. This is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son reading, Luke 15:11-32:
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.”Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”Then the fathersaid to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”’
Every Sunday that I teach "Church School", (what the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics call CCD, or Religious School, or Sunday School classes) to my 1st and 2nd grade, I prepare for class with the lesson from our book as well as with teaching on the Gospel. I found a great quote from St. Ambrose that I didn't read, since it was at the high school reading level, but very much illuminated my understanding of this passage.
Get up and run – Christ chooses those who stand. Rise and run to the Church. Here is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He who hears you pondering in the secret places of the mind runs to you. When you are still far away, He sees you and runs to you. He sees in your heart, He runs, perhaps someone may hinder and He embraces you. His foreknowledge is in the running, his mercy in the embrace and the disposition of fatherly love. He falls on your neck to raise you when you are prostrate and burned with sins. He brings you back when you have turned from the earth to heaven. Christ falls on your neck to free your neck from the yoke of slavery and He hangs his sweet yoke upon your shoulders. (St. Ambrose)
While the kids were coloring and doing their craft for today's class, I started highlighting what I thought was the most important things from this passage. I have to give them crafts or they are very disappointed by the way. Last week I had so much to teach with the Jesus Prayer that I left off the craft for the week. To a child they whispered to me that the class isn't fun without the craft. So I had two crafts today to make up for it.
Here is what the Holy Spirit led me to highlight to them, which fills me with love just thinking about it:
When you hear that the Father runs to the son and hugs him, and kisses him, even though the son was rude, and sinful what does that tell you about God? Is God's love and mercy and compassion greater or is his resentment, and anger greater? Little girl, "His love and mercy and forgiveness are greater."
Anytime we are feeling bad because we maybe disobeyed our parents, or were mean to a brother or sister or friend from school and we need God's help, or when you are an adult and you might do even worse things, because you don't have your parents helping you with all your choices, he sees ahead of time that we are coming, knows we are going to pray and runs to us with grace, and mercy when we need it most. One of the little boys asked me, "Is that true? He knows even before we pray?" I said, "Yes, in fact it is the Holy Spirit within you that you received in Baptism and were sealed with in Chrismation (Eastern Rite's version of Confirmation that is given to a baby immediately after Baptism) that prompts you to pray."
The older brother is not filled with the same forgiveness and love. He resents the younger brother being treated so well. This is a lesson to us too. When someone comes to us asking for forgiveness, by saying they are sorry, we should forgive that person. We are shown such great love and mercy by God the Father sending his Son to open the gates of heaven for us, and by God the Son in love and obedience dying on the cross for our sins, and giving us his life within us in the Holy Eucharist, and by giving us the Holy Spirit. We need to imitate the Father in this parable and forgive not imitate the older brother in resentment and unforgiveness and lack of love. Where do you think the lack of love and unforgiveness come from? Listen how he is retelling how he has worked . . . it is like the Pharisee last week. He is taking pride in his own work and faithfulness and this sin is keeping him from acting like the Father. If someone says they are sorry, is God going to be more pleased and happy with you if you forgive and help them feel better, or if you stay angry and do not forgive? Little girl, "If we forgive and help them feel better."
I love this Gospel passage because it so clearly conveys how much God loves each of us. Sometimes we have some rationalization and explanation for why we faltered, why we chose one thing over what might have been God's will for us, or the teaching of the Church in a given circumstance. We might waste time on this rationalization and internal debate if we don't focus instead on the great love and compassion of God. Even when we feel separated from him, his loving gaze is upon us. Even before we turn to him, or start walking toward him in his Church, he is running toward us. Just like the prodigal Son, we won't even have time to get our long-winded explanation out, because he will be embracing us, his kisses upon our neck and his loving presence filling our souls.
This icon of the Prodigal Son was somewhat of a catalyst for a friend's return to the Church, including the Sacrament of Confession. While of course she didn't share the details of the confession, she did say how incredibly good the priest was, and it seemed to me, he was handpicked for her that day. His consoling and compassionate message to her, "God forgave you long ago. He loves your heart." He told her the real sin and waste was in letting the sadness of what she was confessing keep her from God, who loves her.
How important for us to not walk, or rationalize, or dwell on the circumstances, our weakness, regrets and guilt, but instead to turn quickly to the one who is running toward us, Our Lord and God.
"The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." Psalm 145:8