“Yes even now, “ says the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart,” Joel 2:12
They have all gone astray, every one to his own way. And the power of wickedness has overcome them. So every one of them, from the least to the greatest must return to the Lord. It is a corporate action, a total effort from which no one is excluded. It is an act of the church herself.
From The Lenten Spring by Father Thomas Hopko
The return to God need not be a long, sobering journey. In every moment we can return to Him. It is a choice. A call for revival. Not half a heart but your whole heart. Not I will only accept and believe in two sacraments of love but all sacraments. Sacramental love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It does not make its own rules. It abides by the ones that were already made.
There is many a commentary on the prodigal son. The radical return home. The love of the Father. The jealous older brother. We have heard and spoken of these themes before. And although we’ve heard this story a thousand times, we often forget to live it.
The gospel is not a collection of stories to be heard, it is a life to live
Seeing the gospel lived out in everyday life is Jesus walking in front of me. Sometimes it is in small gestures, sometimes in words. Like when someone I respect and love very much told me yesterday, “You’re my person.” It was God in words for me. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…
After my morning prayer time, writing and bible study yesterday, the Holy Spirit struck me with an overwhelming love in my heart. My son had been wanting and asking for a particular rc boat. He has worked hard, but not hard enough for it (in my eyes). In that moment, an email arrived in my inbox. He had read and completed another book on his own. In fact, in the previous weeks, he had completed many high-level and difficult books on his own.
And while his behavior was not exactly where I’d like it to be, he was trying. Not only was he making progress, but he had also earned nearly all A’s on his report card in a gifted curriculum. What was I waiting for? I called my husband.
“What are we waiting for,” I said to Shlomi, “this is the perfect opportunity to teach him the lesson of the prodigal son. He has returned.”
And so Shlomi went out and bought him that boat, and it was waiting for him when he came home. A lesson in the love of our Father, and his.
We often wait for perfection to reward our children. Our demands are high. In the same way people wait until their lives are perfect to return to God.
But our God is the god of meet you halfway…
What I love most about the story of the prodigal son is the embrace by the Father when he was “still a long way off.” It’s not the embrace itself, but where the embrace and return take place. So I decided to kiss and embrace my son while he was still a ways off, that’s what our loving God would do, so I did it too. It was a time to teach him and talk to him about this great lesson of Christ once again.
Many times we disregard the commandments and teachings of our Lord in favor of our own. We don’t check back in with Him or see how He handled things. And although God loves us as His children, He doesn’t change His commandments and teachings to tailor any one of our needs. This is real unconditional love, that He gave up His only son for us, so that none may perish. God feels this way in all things. It is the turnaround that he cherishes, the repentance. God loves the sinner and cherishes their repentance and return.
Lent is nearly upon us. Choose to return to your God. If you are reading this, you are halfway there. Here are His arms extended to you.