Deep in the human heart there is a tendency
to look rather at the darkness than the light,
to focus on difficulties, sorrows, and pains,
rather than at the goodness, beauty, and truth
that abide even in the darkest places
and break forth, unbroken and victorious,
through the loving care of God, always present,
cradling all things, every person, beloved,
and each moment of time, in his tender arms.
This can be true in our view of the spiritual life,
in which our focus becomes sacrifice and suffering,
or the restless movement of the heart toward growth,
or the sense of servitude and obligation
which weighs down the heart with a yoke
that embitters it—like the older brother in the parable.
We are told “Offer it up,” without explanation,
as if suffering were itself automatically redemptive,
as if you imposes this burden on us,
and leaves us to fret under it.
Yes, everything is traced back to our image,
our image of the heavenly Father, our loving God,
whom we so often see no longer as this,
but as a Taskmaster and Judge, or simply as far away.
Again, the brothers in the parable think this too,
believing that they are mere servants or slaves
—whereas they are beloved sons,
having received, from their Father, everything—
and therefore they see dependence on the Father
as a limitation and a hindrance to their freedom,
rather than as the sphere in which true freedom
and the lighthearted joy of playfulness dwells.
One brother, therefore, rebels and runs away,
seeking his happiness far from the Father’s care,
until he realizes, through the loss of everything,
and the experience of his inherent insecurity,
the preciousness of the Father’s enveloping gift
which he had despised and unappreciated.
The other brother simply bears the yoke,
viewing himself as if the Father saw him
only as one who is meant to fulfill tasks,
an employee or, indeed, less than this.
But what the Father sees in him
is a beloved child, to whom all is given,
and with whom he simply seeks a living relationship,
the intimacy for which his loving heart longs.
This is so true with us as well, loving Father,
whom you have created as your dear children,
not for a task or obligation,
not for some external form of service,
but simply to receive your love unceasingly
and to surrender ourselves to you in return,
allowing this mutual self-giving
to blossom in the joy and happiness of intimacy.
We come to understand this,
burdened as we are by the yoke of slavery
—seeing ourselves no longer as your child,
and enslaved, also, to the fallenness of the flesh
and the fear that holds us bound—
we come to see this in a Third Son,
who comes to us as our loving Brother.
He abides with us in this broken world,
and yet radiates with a sovereign freedom,
with an unbreakable peace and joy:
the certainty of being loved by you, Father,
and of resting and playing unceasingly in your care.
In this way he reopens us to freedom,
to the liberty of childlike dependence on your Love,
which cradles us tenderly in itself at every instant,
and communicates itself to us through each thing.
We learn that we are invited only to accept,
in each moment, the gift of your love, unceasingly,
and to live according to the inner truth of this gift.
And we accept it not as an external burden,
some obligation imposed by a more powerful will,
but as the gift ever-flowing from eternal generosity,
seeking to open and incorporate us into your life,
into the loving freedom and freedom of love that is yours,
in the endless self-giving of the divine life,
in the intimacy of Father, Spirit, and Son.
Yes, then as beloved children, cherished and held,
we know the meaning of true self-giving,
and the flame of loving service in authenticity.
For who serves a Father more ardently, a slave or a son?
It is said that a slave makes excuses
while a son asks for forgiveness—
for the former does only what is necessary,
as imposed from without, militating against his freedom,
whereas the latter sees everything to unfold
within the living dynamic of loving relationship,
which he does not want his infidelity to break.
Indeed, the son, having received all from the Father,
yearns spontaneously to give all in return,
to give all to the Father whom he loves,
springing forth from the boundless wellspring
of his own belovedness before him first.
Indeed, he thirsts to communicate this love to others,
to open to those who do not yet experience it,
the intimacy and joy that he has found,
and in which he rests and plays at every moment…
within the all-enveloping arms of such a Father.
He learns to abide before the Father with open hands
and heart vulnerable and receptive to his gift,
which sustains him at every instant of life
and seeks to blossom ever anew in deeper intimacy.
He knows that obedience, really,
means to act within the Father’s playfulness
and to play within the Father’s activity…
to immerse himself in the eternal creativity of God,
with eyes and heart open to see and receive,
at every moment, the beauty of what God is doing,
and the restfulness of God’s endless delight.
Within this mystery everything else unfolds,
sheltered as it is within the primary, all-encompassing truth.
Abiding in the heart of belovedness,
sheltered as a child in the arms of Love,
he can receive, he can live, he can act,
and he can rest in relaxation of heart in the midst of it all.
For he discerns the Father’s gift in everything,
the Father drawing near to him, working unceasingly,
yearning to unite himself to him in intimate love
and to transform him in the beauty of this gift.
Indeed, he finds the Father’s rest and repose in everything,
as eternity intersects with each moment of time,
not restlessly pushing forward to “more,”
but simply holding the beloved child calmly
in a moment that is cradled in eternal restfulness,
and therefore makes contact with the eternal rest
and the ceaseless playfulness that awaits us at the end.
In this, the beloved, childlike heart can fix its gaze,
without ceasing and in everything
—even through the heart of darkness and suffering—
not on what is dark and difficult,
but on the Light that shines, greater than all:
on the Father’s subtle presence and his tenderness,
on his all-enveloping arms that shelter unceasingly.
Only within the Father’s loving arms,
within the ceaseless care of his paternal love,
does every moment of the life of the child unfold,
freely, beautifully, and joyfully,
as a gift back to his Father, and to his brethren too,
until these divine arms take him up definitively,
to draw him into the bosom of eternity,
into the place where he shall be perfectly united
to the God who is Love, and in him,
to every one of his brothers and sisters,
bound together as one within these cradling arms.