Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable:
"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." -Luke 15:1-10
On This Week's Prompts for Personal Meditation God seeks me. God the shepherd scuttling over rocky canyons on the track of my heedless wandering. God the woman waving her candle over the shadowy cracks in the floor beneath the furniture. Once found, God rejoices and invites the neighbors over to celebrate. The angels in heaven have a party.
"Bill," I asked, "Do you know any quotes about God seeking us?" "Are you KIDDING?" replies my husband. And he recites the beginning of the Hound of Heaven (meditation one). The prompts continue with a reflection by Ernesto Cardinal on God's passionate love (meditation two). And I turned to a favorite quote by Jean Vanier on turning brokenness into service (meditation three).
Bless all you other sinners out there! -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) I fled Him first lines of The Hound of Heaven: I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes, I sped; And shot, preciptated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat- and a Voice beat More instant than the Feet- 'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.' -Francis Thompson 1859-1907 read whole poem HERE http://poetry.elcore.net/HoundOfHeavenInRtTGlossed.html
Detail, Child Christ as Good Shepherd, Murillo, 1660
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed/ but yet in love he sought me,/ and on his shoulder gently laid/ and home, rejoicing, brought me.
-Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) verse 4 of the hymn The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. -Revelation 3:20
from the Rite of Reconciliation The priest concludes: Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go (or abide) in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins. Penitent Thanks be to God.
-Rite of Reconciliation Book of Common Prayer
from the Burial Office Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant N. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen. -A Commendatory Prayer At the Time of Death, also found in the Burial Rite, Book of Common Prayer
Parable of the Lost Drachma, Dominico Fetti, 1618-22
Vigil of the Shepherds, Gozzoli, 1459-60, detail
Meditation Two (insight) Just as I am
My feeling of solitude and my sighing in the night used to find no echo. It fell upon emptiness. I was alone. But now my sigh has found an echo, it reaches someone who hears it, someone I can neither see nor hear in the darkness. But I almost hear near me but within me, further within me than I am myself, his answering sigh.
And this someone is God. I understand your love and how you forgive me everything, because when I was in love before as much as you, I forgave everything, seventy times seven, and I know what your reactions are because I know what it is to be in love. My former loves have taught me what love is. I know how you love me because I too have loved, and I know what passionate and obsessed love is and what it is to be madly in love with someone. And God is mad about me.
He loves me with all my weaknesses, with all my inherited and acquired defects, he loves me as I am, with my idiosyncrasies and my temperament, my habits and my complexes. Just as I am. -Ernesto Cardenal b.1925 Love
Meditation Three (integration) the arid earth of others
Our brokenness is the wound through which the full power of God can penetrate our being and transfigure us in God. Loneliness is not something from which we must flee but the place from where we can cry out to God, where God will find us and we can find God. Yes, through our wounds the power of God can penetrate us and become like rivers of living water to irrigate the arid earth within us. Thus we may irrigate the arid earth of others, so that hope and love are reborn. - Jean Vanier b.1928 The Broken Body (1988, Paulist Press)
The Last Word
Halts by me that footfall: Is my gloom, after all, Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? 'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.' -Francis Thompson The Hound of Heaven (last lines) drave= archaic for drive,to send, expel, or otherwise cause to move by force or compulsion, to guide or cause movement, to compel
What do I owe the 99?
I wander far, slipping heedlessly over sliding gravel, jumping doe-like over crevices, relying upon my own grace. Maybe not so much wandering as running away. Panic obscures my memory and my motives. I descend through the canyons until I'm immobilized by abysses that stretch too wide to cross, rock buttresses too narrow to squeeze through. Weakened, I can't retrace my steps.
Just as I surrender to despair, there you are.
You sought me and found me and carried me home.
Here's my question. What do I now owe the other 99? The ones waiting patiently, staying obediently with the flock? Did you see their looks of envy and reproach? How do YOU get to nuzzle against his shoulder, carried on his sweet back? You don't deserve it! We were faithful, we stayed with the flock and look at you carried shoulder high like a triumphant athlete, laurel leaves for your lies and selfishness! Like the prodigal's older brother, they refuse to come to the angelic party given in my honor.
What do I owe them? I'd drink to their happiness - if I hadn't given up drinking. They reject the gift of my gratitude. The 99 banish me to the solitude I sought in the first place. They turn me into a fool. A fool for love. And wiser than I was.
detail, Scenes from the life of Joachim, Giotto, 1304-6