Make Space for God!
Micah 7: 14 – 15, 18 - 20 Luke 15: 1 – 3; 11 - 32 March 18, 2017
Some years ago when I served at a Passionist retreat house, my retreat team members encouraged me to travel to Russia to witness the great Rembrandt masterpiece, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” They wanted me to enrich my studies of Henri Nouwen who had written one of his finest books by the same name. After several months of consideration and their prodding, I left for St. Petersburgh with a friend who spoke Russian.
There were many insights gained on that trip. After seeing the painting briefly while on a general tour of the Hermitage Museum, I had the opportunity one morning to return alone and sit near the masterpiece for several hours while praying, reflecting, sketching and journaling. The original is much larger than the largest print that can be purchased. The characters are near life size. One thing that struck me was how nearly a quarter to a third of the painting didn’t have much in it, just dark shades of muddy brown. This particularly was the lower right quadrant of the painting. The prodigal was to the left and the father and other characters loomed in the upper half.
As I continued to prayerfully consider this wonderful piece of art and story that Jesus gave us, I felt as if I were standing in the painting along with the other witnesses the artist had placed there. Rembrandt had created that great, dark space in the right foreground so that we could step into the story and observe the extraordinary event of reconciliation that was taking place. In that masterpiece I could see how much God loves us.
Some 20 years ago, Benny Hester had a popular contemporary Christian song out called “God Ran.” Teens loved it. I encourage you to give it a listen sometime. The song encompasses the depth of love we find in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ story says that God runs to us whenever we realize that we are broken and need help. Can you imagine? God ran to the prodigal; God runs to us!
Let yourself become part of today’s Gospel. Step into the space that Rembrandt (and Jesus) creates for you in it. Ponder for a moment whatever it is that you lack … any emptiness, weakness and sin. And then let God run to you, take you into divine arms, and kiss you tenderly and joyously. We just need to ask for God’s help and create a little space for God.
This Lent, may the Passion of our Lord Jesus be ever in our hearts and lead us to everlasting life!
Ernie Rivard is a Passionist Associate and serves as Pastoral Assistant at St. Rose of Lima Church in Northborough, MA