How good it feels when someone is is keeping an eye out for my arrival and is happy to see me. A warm welcome is one of the best gifts there is.
Sometimes I feel I have wandered far from the love and serenity God offers me. Anxiety, financial worries, and illness can contrive to make me self-centered instead of God-centered. When I become aware of the spiritual starvation my self-absorption has caused, I take comfort in knowing God, the Master of Compassion, has been looking out for me and is here to welcome me home.
“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.” Luke 15:20b
Bread Shop in the Street, Old Jerusalem By Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France, via Wikimedia Commons
[Jesus said,] “Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.” John 6:57
When I feed on Jesus, the Compassion of God, I intentionally work on transforming my habits of impatience, self-centeredness, resentment, and fear. I intentionally practice following Jesus and his way of peace and non-violence. I intentionally do my best to imitate Jesus and his healing presence.
El Greco (1541-1614) Pentecostés Óleo sobre lienzo, 275 × 127 cm Madrid, Museo del Prado via Wikimedia Commons
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22
The breath of God, the Spirit of God has entered us through the breath of Jesus, the breath of peace, the breath of forgiveness, the breath of love.
The Spirit enlightens our minds to make the choice to offer peace, forgiveness, and love even when we would rather stay in our anger, resentment, and fear. The Spirit lightens our burdens of illness, grief, and woundedness by nudging us to put our attention on the Lord, on the saving grace of God’s presence and companionship and tender care. The Spirit is our dancing partner, the One who adds joy to the mundane and adventure to the ordinary, the One who directs our creativity and makes each day a new piece of artwork.
A Ruby kindles in the vine, 1905, 1912 Adelaide Hanscom, 1875-1931 via Wikimedia Commons
[Jesus said to his disciples:] “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” John 14:20
Jesus, the vine that gives us life, is in us and we are in him. We are forever entwined with God, with God’s love and grace and goodness and compassion. We breathe with God, live with God, move with God, love with God.
We are the visible fruit of God’s healing and peace in the world. We are the trusted servants of God, trusted to forgive, show mercy, and practice non-violence. We are trusted to build up those who are broken, fragile, discouraged, poor, homeless, and suffering. We are trusted to bring the hope of the Resurrection and God’s eternal love to all those we encounter.
[Jesus said to his disciples:] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” John 14:1
With all the natural disasters, wars, abuse, cruelty, greed, illness, poverty, and loneliness in the world, sometimes my heart is troubled.
Yet if I have faith in in the pure, unconditional love and goodness of God, then I need to invite Jesus, the Compassion of God, to be my companion. I need to have faith that his example will show me the Way through the messy human condition. I need to have faith in the Truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. I need to have faith in the gift of LIfe eternal.
Early christian image of Christ as the Good Shepherd Fourth Century A.D. Museo Epigrafico, Rome
[The shepherd] walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. John 10:4
We follow Jesus into quiet, secluded places to pray. We follow Jesus to dine with the poor and the outcasts of society. We follow Jesus to touch those with untouchable illnesses. We follow Jesus to wash the feet of others. We follow Jesus to forgive those who betray us. We follow Jesus to love our enemies. We follow Jesus to do the will of God, however counter-cultural it may seem. We follow Jesus to die to ourselves and rise to new life.
Christ with two disciples on the road to Emmaus Workshop of Rembrandt (1606–1669):Corrected by Rembrandt Pen and brush in brown ink, washed, heightened with white, on paper, circa 1655 Warsaw University Library via Wikimedia Commons
Then [the two disciples] said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
What language do I speak when I open my heart to others? The language of humility? sincerity? hope? faith?
When others speak to me from their hearts, in what language do I listen? The language of compassion? acceptance? non-judgment? peace?
Today I will practice speaking and listening with love. It’s the language we all share in common.
JESUS MAFA. Jesus appears to Thomas, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” John 20:24
I wonder how convincing the other disciples were about their encounter with Jesus. Thomas may have had good reason to doubt them.
And I wonder how convincing I am as a witness for Jesus. Do I embody the compassion and unconditional love and non-judgment of Jesus? Do I embody the mercy and forgiveness and non-violence of Jesus? Do I embody the service and healing and humility of Jesus?
Honest doubt nudges me to deepen my commitment to practice the God-qualities that comfort and encourage others, and that bring peace to my corner of the world.
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) Two Disciples at the Tomb, ca.1906 oil on canvas Art Institute of Chicago via Wikimedia Commons
When Simon Peter arrived after [the other disciple], he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. John 20:6-7
I imagine Jesus chuckling as he neatly rolls the cloth that had covered his head and leaves it conspicuously separate from the other burial cloths. He knows his disciples are in for a big surprise. And he knows they will be puzzled, dismayed—and hopeful.
The resurrection of Jesus always points me to hope. Hope in change. Hope in the unknown. Hope in God’s gentle guidance and infinite love.