This was written before COVID-19 became an imminent threat & changed our daily experience, but Christ’s love & mercy never changes. May God give each of us peace, hope, & open hearts during this time.
I like to think that I’m pretty well-rounded. I’ve worked in Human Resources; I’ve done secretarial work; I’ve raised three children; and I’ve taught high school English and Theology. But I’ve never played a sport, coached a team, or sat through more than a few minutes of football without resorting to people watching.
I mention that because several weeks ago God surprised me with an image involving football. I was praying with the Sunday scripture, The Baptism of the Lord. The questions given in the reflection material were “What has been your most difficult response to your baptismal commitment? What gave you the strength to get through it?”
The reflection took me to images of the day I was baptized. I looked at a picture of my godmother. She represents the beginning of my faith life. But after thinking about my baptism, I recalled how I had stopped practicing my faith as soon as I left high school. I remembered those years of so-called independence, making decisions without God; poor choices that led to confusion, hurt, and a cycle of sin, remorse, and self-loathing.
I remembered clearly how I had always had the desire to do “right” even when I chose “wrong.” And then, deep in reflection, I saw an image of Jesus as a lineman running with me! He had run alongside me my entire life, just like a lineman runs alongside the ball carrier.
Jesus was clearing the path for me during those times. And suddenly, instead of feeling guilty about those years, I felt joy. I recognized that God had never given up on me, and still is with me!
In Jesus’s story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus shows us a Father who welcomes his son with open arms when he returns home. In fact, in this parable, the Father says of his recalcitrant son, “he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32).
This son has been “found.” The son had lost his way; he could not find the right path.
The path has been cleared for the lost son.
Finally, notice how the father runs toward the son:
“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” (Lk 15:21)
The father cleared the path for his son! – much like a lineman clearing the way for a ball carrier. The father has made it evident that the son’s path is clear; he need not DO ANYTHING SPECIAL – he has been forgiven!
How many times have you or I lost our way? Made a sinful choice. Refused God’s love. Failed to be present to God or to someone who needed us. We, too, have lost our way and need Jesus – the lineman – to clear the path for us! And he does, he always clears our path with forgiveness, with mercy, and with great love. We just need to notice Jesus there with us.
In the Lenten Season we worry about how we can do something special. Giving up chocolate or soda doesn’t seem very spiritual, yet often that’s what we end up doing, just so we can feel like we’ve made some sacrifice.
What choice might help us to walk closer to Jesus?
That quarterback in the football game is not going to get closer to the goal if he doesn’t communicate with the lineman. He has to communicate with him.
Jesus is our lineman.
He is there to get us to the goal line. Like a good quarterback, we have to communicate with the lineman. This Lent, can you focus on getting into the huddle with Jesus? To sit silently with him? To tell him what’s going on with you?
Ask Jesus to clear your path. Ask him to accompany you on the road that is not easy.