02 March 2024

Weekend Reading: He Calls You By Name


This is a season of penance and sorrow, as we sow in tears, that ends in the rich harvest of coming home, with abundant life as we reap in joy.  

All we must do is put aside our fear, and our foolish pride, accepting His loving kindness and tender mercy, and come home.   For He loves us, more than any other, more faithfully than we love ourselves.

Tax collectors and notorious sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and even eats with them.' And so he told them this story—

‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.

‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”  So he got up and went to his father.

‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now he is found.”’

Addiction might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society.  Our addiction make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love.  These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. 

As long as we live within the world's delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled.  In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father's home.  The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in 'a distant country.'  It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

"All sin, indeed, when repented of, He will put away; but pride hardens the heart against repentance, and sensuality debases it to a brutal nature."

John Henry Newman

"Almighty God lets the sinner go his own way, for He has given to man free-will, and does not want a forced obedience, but an obedience springing from love.  In his forgetfulness of God, the sinner squanders his fortune, the natural and supernatural gifts which he has received, using his natural gifts, his health, his physical powers, and his reason, to offend God.  

The sinner, having forsaken the service of his God, falls under the dominance of Satan, and becomes the slave of his lowest passions, which are signified by the swine which the prodigal was forced to feed.  But the more he obeys his passions, the more dissatisfied he becomes.  No pleasure of the senses can give him happiness, and he feels an emptiness and spiritual hunger in his heart which he is powerless to satisfy.  He knows no rest; he only knows that he is miserable, and hateful to himself."

Friedrich Justus Knecht, On the Prodigal Son

"The sun rises with its scorching rays and withers the grass, flowers droop, and their beauty fades away. So too the rich will be brought low in the midst of their affairs. Blessed are they who stand fast when tempted, for after being tested and tried they will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."

James 1:11-12

"The Lord requires you to act justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Micah 6:8

He calls you by name.   Turn away from the phantom of empty desires, and come home.