Time to discover Our Father
In His Lenten pastoral being read in all Gozo churches today, Bishop Mario Grech says that perhaps not all are convinced that God is a merciful Father who is always ready to embrace everyone, and to be known and loved.
Ash Wednesday, this week, sees the beginning of Lent in preparation for the great feast of Easter. Lent, he says, is a time of grace to enable us to rise and return to the Father. It is a time to discover who our Father really is.
Lent is an opportunity for the Father to build a new relationship with us. He wants us to be with him not as servants but as his children, and thanks to this relationship we could enter into a new relationship with others like brothers and sisters.
Lent throws the doors of our homes wide open so that we could feel welcome. This home is our family, but also the Church.
Referring to the parable of the Prodigal Son, Bishop Grech says the father was suffering not because his son had left home, but because he was going through very bad times.
This is a beautiful portrayal of Our Lord who suffers because He sees us downtrodden and in need. He feels for us because He wants us to remain His children so that He could continue loving us as the Father He is. He waits for us anxiously to return to Him, not to have power over us, but for us to obtain life.
We know that there cannot be children without a father, or a father without children. It was for this reason that He gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who through his Passion, Death and Resurrection repaid our debt and gave us life.
Referring again to the parable, Bishop Grech says that it sometimes happens that in the Church there are those who take the attitude of the elder son, which is not different from that of the younger one, because they both ignored their father and did as they pleased. Indeed, the behaviour of the elder son is worse, because since he remained inside his father's house he could easily deceive and be deceived.
The elder son's complex is shared by those within the Church who are happy with the knowledge they have of God and are not interested in knowing him more closely, those who make compromises with God and with their conscience, those who bargain with God on a quid pro quo basis; those who are more careful to observe the law than to grow in their relationship as children with their Father; those who are stingy with God in the time they devote to prayer and in giving themselves to Him; those who are ever ready to point their finger at others' misdemeanours.
All of us can find ourselves in this category - clergy, consecrated persons, married couples, adults, young people and children. So, Bishop Grech says, let us, at this time of Lent, let the Father "come out to meet us" and take us inside His house.
However, there is also an element of the younger son's character in each and every one of us. His demand that his father give him his share so that he could leave the family home could be likened to our innermost feelings: the craving for wealth, freedom, adventure, autonomy, greater recognition. They are all legitimate aspirations, but when the young son left his father, he failed to translate these feelings in a way which did not befit the dignity of a son. His urge for freedom became a taste for libertinism, and his wish for autonomy turned into humiliating new ties.
This young man soon realised that he had taken the wrong path, so he decided to return home to his father. In this way he was fulfilling another wish: the craving for God which is etched in the heart of every man, because man was created by God and for God.
Bishop Grech urges the faithful to echo the Father's wish to see His children once again. He shows this wish in various ways. It is expressed in the Bible, so it would be a good idea during Lent to get closer to the Word of God, and in particular the spiritual exercises held during this time. But the greatest expression of the Father's wish is seen in the person of Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he gave it his only Son so that whoever believes in Him is not lost but would have eternal life.
Bishop Grech encourages the faithful to cherish their meeting with Jesus every day during Mass, in this period of Lent, besides personal prayer, fasting and charity. They should join the many people in Gozo who hear Mass every day.
The Church offers us this period of Lent to enable us to experience God, our loving Father, even more closely. We should rush up to be embraced by Him, Bishop Grech concludes his pastoral letter.