Some Practical Help for Getting Started This Week

This is not an easy week for many of us. In the third par­able of mercy, which Jesus tells to those who criticize his eating and drinking with sinners (Luke 15), the younger son’s return to his father is full of remorse, “I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son.” The older son is full of resentment that the father forgives the younger son so freely. And like the religious leaders that criticize Jesus, he won’t join in the celebration. It is not easy for us to get beyond feeling terrible about our sin or the patterns of sinfulness in our lives. And even when we find ourselves in the embrace of Forgiving Love, there’s an older brother’s or sister’s voice inside us, putting a damper on the celebration.

This is the week to surrender to God’s embrace. Look at the photo over and over. Imagine being in that embrace. Stay there. Don’t rush it. Let all the resistance melt away. Receive it. Enjoy it. Rest in it. What is the one who is embracing me feeling and expressing in that moment of togetherness? Throughout this week, whatever I’m doing, in those in-between times, I can close my eyes and imagine Jesus holding me like that.

This is the week to smile — to wear it on our face and to feel it deeply. A smile and a deep breath go together very well. They prepare the way for a joyful and wonderfully refreshing inner peace.
Do all the rest of my problems go away? Is my life back together? Have I reached the depths of spiritual freedom? Of course not. We keep reminding ourselves that this is a journey, and each week is an important next step. This is a critical next step — to experience and enjoy and celebrate, because I am a loved sinner.

Perhaps this week I can find several things to do that will lift my spirits and reinforce this week of enjoyment and peace. Plan it; make some change in the routine; give the week a different feel.
Most important, this week is about gratitude and expressing it. What am I feeling as I rest in that embrace? After all I have done and failed to do, and considering the patterns that still shape my life — to be forgiven so completely! How does that feel? If tears come forth, let them flow. How do I want to respond to the one who has loved me this much? I need to say those words in thanksgiving. To be forgiven is a tremendous gift. We want to express our gratitude in words that claim it and allow us to enter even more deeply into the joy and peace. Rituals are important.

They involve our bodies and last in our memories. Perhaps I will put my expression of gratitude on paper, in words that express all that I feel, addressing it directly to Jesus or to God. As I read “In These or Similar Words . . . ,” I can find my words and say them out loud or put them in writing. For some of us, standing in the solitude of our room, with arms stretching up toward heaven, wonderfully expresses how we feel. For some of us, it will be impor­tant to recall a song that we sing to mark this very special week. Perhaps I will celebrate the Eucharist this week or on Sunday, or participate in my faith community’s worship, with a deeper sense of joy.

The measure for each of us this week will be how we go to sleep each night. If I can put my clothes on the chair and take off those slippers with a growing sense of joy in my heart — because I’m a sinner who is loved beyond belief — then the grace of this week will fill my spirit with peace.
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