Because Christ Waits Patiently

St_Macarius_the_Great_with_Cherub

 

I saw this posted yesterday somewhere: “Forget Christmas or Easter. Independence Day is the most important holiday of the year and will have a greater impact on world history as it serves to remind people for millenia that nations are ruled by the consent of the governed.” My first thought? This person is delusional. My second thought? I need to pray for them.

Why delusional? Well isn’t it obvious? Saying that an experiment in governing that is only 236 years old trumps the Greatest Story Ever Told, which is roughly 2010 years old, and which spawned many, if not most of the ideals on which the United States was founded, is kind of silly. To me anyway.

But then my conscience panged me and I thought to just pray for the person too. Because even though we are lost, or worse we just wander away, the Shepherd waits patiently for each one of us. And even more astoundingly, He looks for our return to Him because of a love for us that is so profound, so undeserved, and yet so desired by us, that we are amazed and grateful when He welcomes us prodigals back home.

Macarius the Great, one of the Desert Fathers, wrote a homily (in the 4th century!) in which he explains the depth of this love as follows,

The Lord, indeed, is the Lover of mankind; so full of tender compassion whenever we turn completely toward Him and are freed from all things contrary. Even though we, in our supreme ignorance, childishness, and tendency toward evil, turn away from true life and place many impediments along our own path because we really do not like to repent, nevertheless, He has great mercy on us. He patiently waits for us until we will be converted and return to Him and be enlightened in our inner selves that our faces may not be ashamed in the Day of Judgment.

If that seems difficult and troublesome to us because practicing virtue is hard, but, more so, because of the insidious suggesting of the adversary, still He is very full of compassion, long-suffering and patient as He waits for our conversion. And when we do sin, He is ready to lift us up, for He desires our repentance.

And when we fall, He is not ashamed to take us back, as the Prophet says, “When men fall, do they not rise again? Or if one turns away, does he not return?” (Jer. 8:4) We only have to have a sincere heart and live in vigilance and be converted immediately after seeking His help and He Himself is most ready to save us. For He looks for our ardent will, as best we can, to turn toward Him. When we show good faith and promptness glowing from our desiring, then He works in us a true conversion.

That first paragraph describes me to a T, or at least it did. And it is similar to what St. Paul wrote in his letter to Titus when he writes,

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another. But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of His mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ Our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Thanks be to God. And so from one lost sheep that was found, to another that still wanders, I said a little prayer that they may find their way safely home too.


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