Meditation for Monday, October 7, 2019

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!   1 John 3:1

What is your relationship like with God? We often picture Jesus as a friend, but God as a rather distant authoritarian figure, whose responses you are never quite sure of—thunder and lightning, a pillar of fire, one watching our every move. Is God someone you embrace warmly or stand bowed before in fear and awe? Maybe all of those are parts of how we perceive God, and that is bound to impact how we approach or even desire relationship with God.

Henri Nouwen speaks of icons or sacred paintings as being “created for the sole purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible.” They “are painted to lead us into the room of prayer and bring us close to the heart of God,” even offering us “a glimpse of heaven.” (Behold the Beauty of the Lord)

The Return of the Prodigal Son is an oil painting by Rembrandt. It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death. In this picture, there are layers of detail which invite us to consider God’s posture towards us. Here he receives the prodigal back home. Spend some time absorbing the father’s expression and stance with the son who has rejected life in the family and has gone his own way. (a bigger version on-screen is helpful) Realizing his need, the son returns humbly and contritely. Does the father stand back, condemning his filth and folly? What do you notice in this rich depiction of the reunion?

As he meditates on this picture, Henri Nouwen says, ‘As the prodigal son in the embrace of the Father, I have to kneel, put my ear upon His chest & listen to the heartbeat of God’. (The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming) This is an expression of deep intimacy and welcome. Does the father not realize the self-indulgence, rejection, and failure the son represents? Yet he holds the young man close, heedless of the smell, dirt and distance which has been between them. Is this how you feel—held tightly, received, loved?

It is no accident that Ignatius of Loyola begins his Spiritual Exercises with scriptures and praying through God’s expressions of love towards us. This is the foundation of understanding and approaching God, before we even look at our own state.

God stands waiting and watching for us to come home, ready to welcome and spend time with us. Just as the prodigal rehearsed his confession, we often arrive with our list of needs and wants in hand. As we approach, our explanations are silenced. We only kneel, come close and listen to God’s heartbeat. This is prayer—being with the One who loves us more than we can imagine!

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 around him and kissed him.    Luke 15:20

Imago Dei Christian  Communities
Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Community

For Group Discussion:

  1. What is the image of God you typically ‘carry’ in your experience? Spend some time exploring where that has grown from.
  2. What particularly strikes you in this image of the father receiving the prodigal? Why?
  3. What do you desire in your relationship with God?
  4. How does this fit with your experience of prayer?

For Prayer: Help me know and realize your desire to love and embrace me as your child. Let me come in trust and surrender to be enfolded in that love. I want to be yours.