“Bring the fatted calf and slaughter it; let us eat and rejoice, for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Here in the long gray middle of Lent, suddenly a word of joy. For the Prodigal Son is every one of us. That is the first thing Lent calls us to know. We have been given such grace, the love of God poured out for us in the beginning, in the beauty of the first garden and the walk with God; the love of God poured out for us in his people Israel and in the prophets and finally in Christ Jesus our Lord. And repeatedly we turn away.
Now and in the beginning, we turn away; though God invites us to walk with Him we prefer a far country and we squander our inheritance, our church and the riches of His Word, and we find ourselves parched and hungry, longing for a home.
We are this Lent the wayward child, and we can only say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” We may say it, indeed, as the Prodigal Son does, simply because we are desperate, and without much hope: “Make me one of your hired hands.” But the Father comes running while the son is still far off and throws his arms around him and kisses him, and orders up the best robe and a ring for his finger and the fatted calf, music and a feast. “Esplangchnisthe”, the Greek reads: he was filled with compassion. This is the second thing Lent tells us.
God’s love goes before us, greater than our despair; in Christ Jesus he stretches out his arms to us in suffering love to cast away our sin and to bring us home.
Amazing grace. We walk this Lent toward Good Friday, the day on which we are found. And shall we, Jesus asks us from the cross, love each other, forgive each other, rejoice with each other, any less?
Prayer: Father, we gaze this Lent on your compassion in Jesus Christ our Lord: see from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Give us grace to love each other as you have in Him loved us. Amen.