Saturday, March 3, 2012

Worthiness is never the issue

I take it as a good sign that so far during Lent I am just soaking things in, not generating a lot of disparate thoughts, but going deeper with the help of some very good guides. One guide I have had for many years, as long time readers know, is Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, who I consider to be one of the greatest spiritual masters of the last century. His books are short, but packed with wisdom and insight. Even in re-reading his works, especially Beginning to Pray, which is his best-known work, and Living Prayer, which I am currently reading, there is always more than when I first read them. For end of this first full week of Lent, I am sharing one more excerpt of beginning to pray because I think it captures well the reasons we observe Lent, which too often becomes a sort of pseudo-spiritualized effort at self-improvement.

Marc Chagall, The Prodigal Son

[W]e are, in the Church, the children of God, and these first words 'Our Father' establish the fact and make us take our stand where we belong. It is no good saying we are unworthy of this calling. We have accepted it, and it is ours. We may be the prodigal son and we will have to answer for it, but what is certain is that nothing can transform us back into that which we no longer are. When the prodigal son returned to his father, and was about to say: 'I am no longer worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants' (Lk 15:19), the father allowed him to pronounce the first words: 'I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight and am no more worthy to be called thy son,' but there he stopped him. Yes, he is not worthy, but he is a son in spite of his unworthiness. You cannot cease to be a member of your family, whatever you do, whether worthy or not. Whatever we are, whatever our life is, however unworthy we are, we are called to be the [children] of God, or to call God our father, we have no escape. That is where we stand.
When, like prodigals, we return to our Father in the sacrament of penance it is important to understand that we don't go there to find out whether or not God will forgive us. We are always already forgiven because of Jesus Christ. We go to realize, that is, to make real, to experience, like the prodigal, the great love and Divine Mercy of our Father.

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