Monday, January 23, 2012

The Prodigal Son - Liz Lemon Swindle

In the gospel for today's Mass we encounter that frightening challenge:  the sin against the Holy Spirit.  So often, as a preacher, I am asked what is this sin and why is it so serious?  Perhaps there could not be a better day than today to consider this reality.

We must not overlook the reality that the Holy Spirit is the origin of the good, all the good in Jesus, in our brothers and sisters -- all of them -- and in our world.  It is through the Holy Spirit that the world, you and I, come to know God's presence in our lives and the lives of others ... especially those God has planned bringing into the world through parents.  So what is this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps it is so simple we miss it!  It is to reuse with all deliberate intention the presence of God the Holy Spirit, his goodness in God's created world.  Those who refuse to see, to accept the power of God in all that Jesus did, all the God brings about in our world, these are those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Clearly many who followed Jesus when he was preaching, teaching and healing, recognized this divine presence in his life and activities.

To refuse to see God present in one's life, that person has in effect closed mind and heart to God's desire to continue his presence in his/her life.  He/she has closed the doors of heart and soul to the divine Creator of all that is.  Nothing less that a personal reaching out to God with a truly sorrow-filled heart and a genuine desire for sincere repentance will earn God's mercy, his forgiveness.

Recall the Prodigal Son biblical vignette.  We believe that the young man, so distracted by wealth and earthly desires, only earned forgiveness when he walked the long road to the open arms of his loving father.  This was his genuine repentance.  It was recognizing his sin and his conviction to seek his father's forgiveness that the young man opened his heart and soul to God's loving mercy.

We should not overlook the reality that is easily lost in our society today:  love is only genuine when it is free!  God will never force his love upon us.  Always, always he stands before us with the opened arms of his Sacred Heart.

Today, here in Washington, we are witness once again to the reminder that God's presence is with us in each and every human being from the moment of conception until the moment that God chooses to call that life to himself.

Today we should pray for those who refuse to acknowledge God's presence in the newly conceived child.  We should pray that our prayers might break through the bolted doors of hardened hearts who believe it is a person's right to end the sacred presence of God in a newly conceived child through death by abortion.

Carefully look at Liz Lemon Swindle's artistic portrayal of the moment of forgiveness.  Study this painting.  Let it open your heart and soul to the voice of God speaking to you today through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.  See the intensity of the father's grasp of his offspring.  Sense the pain the father senses that has so damaged his son.  Sense the father's eyes and expression as he imagines what his son has endured and now how he can use the healing balm of forgiveness.  This is the gift the Holy Spirit present in Ms. Swindle's magnificent rendition of a truly tender moment that every person must fell when he/she has the courage and the graces to seek God's loving forgiveness.