Abba Mios was asked by a soldier: “Father, God then accepts the repentance of the sinner?” The Elder, after counselling him with many instructive words, suddenly asked him:“Tell me, my beloved, when you tear your uniform, do you throw it away? “No,” the soldier answered, “I sew it and use it anew again.”Then Abba Mios also thoughtfully told him:“If you take pity on your clothing, will not God take pity on His own creation?”
The other night I offered a reflection on prayer, fasting and mercy at St. Edward’s Evening Prayer. While working on what I would say, it occurred to me that I thought that fasting was hard… I however had to refocus on the idea that mercy was much harder.
In case I needed any reminding of that, today’s Gospel from Luke is a clear message about what God wants.
God wants us.
In reading the short anecdote about our desert father, Abba Mios, I really had to pause and think about how the ethos of repair in our culture works its way into the theme of reconciliation.
You may be thinking, “what is she on about now?” Well, here is what I think…
We live in a “throwaway” culture – a culture of planned obsolescence. There is a whole other series of reflections about just that and the mess that our economy and world are in, but I will save that for another day. There are numerous societal, cultural, ecological and economical aspects that can be explored!
In any case, we do inhabit a world in which things are meant to run out of usefulness and break more quickly than they should. That is so that we might get rid of them and go right out and get lots more new stuff that will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. This goes from everything to clothes and shoes to appliances large and small, houses, cars…
Well, there is a lot that I could say about people, but I will focus on one aspect and that is forgiveness.
It is so hard to forgive and to be forgiven. What a burden it carries. There is something to be said about going out and just getting some new people. Well – not really, but it does seem that way, doesn’t it. And even if we don’t get some new people, we can certainly find numerous ways to sustain the energy that is required for keeping those that we are angry or hurt with out.
That’s why I think the Abba Mios story is so interesting… It may be harder to comprehend in an era in which our cloak does not get repaired, our sock does not get darned, our torn seam does not get re-sewn… We just get a new one.
However, there are other things that we might expend energy in trying to restore and keep, but either way the emphasis is on things. Our things mean a lot to us, our stuff.
But what about people?
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, a story so well-known we see a story of truly radical reconciliation. It is important to have some understanding of Jesus’ time – this kind of event did not happen lightly.
The father is clearly out there waiting for his son… He sees him in the distance! Typically, the scorned father would be waiting inside and might not be all that concerned. This father, who is Our God, is anxiously anticipating our return!
He throws his arms around his son… Another socially unimaginable moment from that time. The son would, if anything, have to pay the father homage and then maybe get the father’s attention.
No – this father, Our God is elated to embrace us and welcome us back.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
We are not thrown away, we are never thrown away. There is no planned obsolescence for us. Each of us is God’s unique and loving creation and God treasures each and every one of us.
So I would simply ask you to consider all the things – and people, that you might otherwise throw away. Especially with the people – this might mean:
- a friend who has offended you so deeply that you will never speak to them again a spouse who has hurt you beyond imagining
- a son or daughter who has not quite lived up to your expectations for them
- a relative who has brought, in your estimation, shame up on the family
- anyone who disgusts or annoys you
Yes – yourself. We are all called into this radical reconciliation moment by our God who loves us and if we can’t give ourselves the forgiveness needed, if we can’t accept God’s outrageous attempts at such deep love and welcome, we may miss the moment on the road when our own prodigal person returns.
Especially since it might be yourself! We never really know who we will be called on to forgive… and we really can’t imagine how radical God’s forgiveness is. But we can try- and that might mean being merciful and forgiving to ourselves first.
So bear this in mind… may have to recycle your old iPod, but don’t do it with your people. Or with yourself.
God is always waiting.