Throughout this Lenten journey, I have maintained that God wants all human beings to be “holy souls,” and thus “friends of God, and prophets.” I hope that you have experienced God’s desire for your friendship and your corresponding desire to be God’s friend. I am convinced that the only way to the fulfillment of God’s dream for our world is for more and more human beings to accept God’s offer of friendship and to begin to live out the consequences. God wants friendship with you and with me and with all our brothers and sisters in the world. That’s what our Lenten journey is all about. So let’s take the offer, shall we?
Loving God, I accept your offer of friendship.
—William A. Barry, SJ, in Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God
Once I was contemplating the Prodigal Son. I was the father, waiting out on the road every day, searching the horizon for my son to return. One day I again scanned the familiar skyline and hills in front of me, and then I saw the speck moving far down the road—my son returning home. All of my love for him rushed into my heart, and I was overwhelmed with the realization that nothing he had done could possibly matter, if only I could hold him in my arms again and tell him how much I love him. I ran down the road toward him as fast as I could, panting and yelling with joy. My son was home!
It was that extraordinary experience of prayer that brought home to me how much God wants a loving friendship with me—with each of us. I often had the same sort of experience with my own children. These two young people that I adored with all of my heart often ignored me, disobeyed me, and went their own ways. Yet, I could feel how nothing they did could dim my deep and lifelong love for them. I might be frustrated or angry with them as they stormed from a room or slammed a door, but my children could not escape my love.
On this Lenten journey, we have been invited first to imagine and then accept that God wants a friendship with us. I think we have such a difficult time picturing God as wanting to be in a friendship with us because our imaginations can’t do better than to picture God loving the way we love. We give God our own limited, human version of love.
In our heads we might allow ourselves to think that God loves us endlessly, but in our hearts, we whisper that we are really not worthy of that love. We know too well our own flaws and shortcomings, and we are certain that if God really knew us, God would be disappointed. But the dizzying fact is that we have a God who reaches out to us, who wants our friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” Jesus assures us (John 15:16).
Accepting this friendship with God means putting aside our fears and asking God to help us start.
You chose me, Lord, and I accept. Help me start up the road and come into your long-waiting embrace.
This is the final part of a seven-part series, Growing in Friendship with God This Lent.