Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Portrait of our Love

In the Gospel, we have the parable of the prodigal son, or better of the forgiving father.

Rembrandt's Prodigal Son
The parable has many levels of meaning. The younger son asked for his inheritance, got it, and then squandered it; and then “he comes to his senses.” He realizes his true identity as a beloved son.  He wants to be in relationship with his father, who unconditionally loves and forgives him and then gives him a party.

The older son finds this incomprehensible. Rightly so, from a human point of view. But from a divine point of view, the story emphasizes God the Father's unconditional love and forgiveness for us.

This may prompt us to think about disputes among siblings. Or it may move us to ponder forgiving someone who has wronged us. Some people become so fixated that they let wrongs “imprison” them, so to speak. This parable challenges us to forgive. If we can’t forgive on our own, pray for the grace to participate in the forgiveness of Jesus.

We often read or know about people wronged by someone. This parable also invites us to see ourselves in the characters. Are we the forgiving parent? The repentant younger son? The resentful older son?

Did you ever wonder what Jesus really looked like? You probably heard about the Shroud of Turin. Whether or not it’s authentic, that’s one portrait or face of Jesus. The great painters also give us different portraits: da Vinci; Raphael; Michelangelo; El Greco; Rembrandt. Do you have a favorite portrait of Jesus?

The four recognized Gospel writers, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, give us different portraits and different ways in which to follow Jesus. Moreover they wrote to different audiences; and so they wrote differently. As we write differently to different people.

Which Gospel is most authentic, which best reflects the historical Jesus? They all do.

Mark is an action Gospel. The Jesus in Mark seems very approachable, very human. Mark wrote shortly after scores of Christians perished in Rome and many asked: where is God? Has God forgotten us? To be a disciple may mean enduring chronic illness; making sacrifices; giving generously to others.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus in John is noble, majestic and divine. Remember how this Gospel opens: In the beginning was the Word. Yes, Jesus is completely human and completely divine. To be a disciple, for John, is to be in relationship or friendship with Jesus, especially in prayer.
Jesus is more than any one person can adequately describe. And so we might ask ourselves: how do we reflect Jesus?

Re-discover a portrait of Jesus this Lenten season by prayerfully reading the Gospel of Mark or John.  Let these portraits fire us up to become ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, the Master.

1 comment:

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