Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense…
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
To know and experience God’s mercy, we must know our own sinfulness. To quote the American poet Emily Dickinson, “to comprehend a nectar requires sorest need.” In the gospel story of the prodigal son, the son who squanders his father’s inheritance comes to discover his “sorest need.” He finds himself humbled, living in squalor.
Theodore Ryken tells us that his “deep humiliation” led him to turn toward God. Like the prodigal son who returns to his father and discovers true prodigality, Theodore Ryken turns toward God and finds his true place. It was from this place, the place of a “contrite spirit,” that Theodore Ryken tells us he “fell in love with God.” Where do we discover “the greatness of (God’s) compassion?” What is required of us to acquire a “contrite spirit?”
Take 30-60 minutes for this exercise.
Read The Parable of the Lost Son [Luke 15:11-32]. Enter the scene yourself, as the Youngest Son. Feel the failure and humiliation. Have you felt this before? When? Hold onto that feeling. Do you have a contrite heart?
Now begin your long journey home. It’s a long walk. What do you think about? How do you feel? How will your father react when you get home? Imagine the journey, the landscape around you, your thoughts as you approach home.
Now look up and see your father running to greet you. He is happy you are home. He consoles you. How does this feel? Have you felt a consolation like this before–the nectar of your sorest need?
Finally, as you leave the scene, remember that this parable is an image of God’s love and compassion. Has this been your image or experience of God? What are you doing to deepen these experiences with God?
Good and gracious God, we are always returning, always in a movement toward our true home. We know that “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” As we begin the discipline of the season of Lent, give us the grace to begin our journey back to our true home. May we travel this journey wholeheartedly, not simply ‘rending our garments’ superficially, but truly placing ourselves in the hands of your Divine Mercy and experiencing your ineffable and unconditional love. May we who follow the Xaverian Way, commit ourselves to renewing our family and being your compassionate presence in our world today. We ask this in the name of Jesus, your Son and our brother. Amen.