My husband and I are on a little getaway while our children vacation with my parents this week. For Lauds today, I had this view instead of my usual altar.
It was so peaceful that I easily sailed through the usual 5 minutes of meditation on the reading for this morning with very little of the usual mind-going-into-rabbit-holes I struggle with daily.
Today’s Scripture for Lauds was this:
READING Ezekiel 36:25-27
I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
So often, I struggle with allowing God to do this with my heart: to take away my impurities and disordered desires and put in their place a holy zeal for Him and His Church. But again and again, God calls me back, promising that He will do this for me.
If only I allow Him to do it.
God has given us the great gift of free will, which allows us to truly love Him if we so choose. For true love cannot ever be forced upon someone or drawn out of them against their will. Love must be chosen willingly, without coercion. Coming just after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this is a pretty timely reading. Father Lawrence Lew, O.P., wrote this about the Sacred Heart and its founding as a feast:
As St Margaret Mary Alacoque, saint of the Sacred Heart said: “Showing me His Divine Heart, He said, ‘Behold this Heart which has so loved men and women that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself to prove to them its love. In return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege and coldness in this Sacrament of My love. But what I feel still more is that there are hearts consecrated to Me who use me thus.
Therefore I ask of you that… a special Festival [be kept] in honour of My Heart, to make reparation for the indignities offered to It and as a Communion day, in order to atone for the unworthy treatment It has received when exposed upon the altars. I also promise that my Heart shall shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine love on all those who shall honour It or cause It to be honoured’”.
So many of us turn from God’s love. But as I have been praying the Divine Office over the last year, I’ve seen a beautiful pattern in the readings from the prophets: God calls us back to Himself continually. Often, we see the people of God depicted as a bride, but Jesus also let us know that God is our Father. This was especially evident in the parable of the Prodigal Son:
Finally, I realized what it means to say that if we are unfaithful he will still remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. No matter how much we might deny Him, God will always look for us, searching the horizon for his prodigal sons and daughters. He loves us, and will never give up hope that we will turn our hearts to Him again and come home. Like the father of the prodigal son, His desire is to have all of His children with him, happy and safe in His home. He seeks us out, calls to us from the distance, though we often ignore Him andpretend not to hear. He watches for us – how else could the father in the parable have seen his son “at a great distance” – and when we appear on the horizon, still a long way from being really, truly home, He runs to us and embraces us with the kind of love we can never truly understand in this life.
God seeks us out, and He waits patiently for us as any parent would, calling us back to Himself. He begs us to abandon the life we are leading that is hurting us in ways we cannot see, and He tells us again and again that we can come Home. He will forgive us.
He is waiting for us, searching for our silhouette against the setting sun, waiting for that moment when our figure will appear on the far horizon. When that happens, He will run to us and embrace us even as we weep and confess that we aren’t worthy to be His children any longer.
Because no sin is too great for Him to forgive when we ask Him for it.