By Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU
I am sure we all have had the experiences of being “moved to tears.” News of a baby born, or the child’s first steps could bring that tear. It may be the passing of a loved one or remembering a special anniversary date of a significant occasion or experience. A tear or two may flow when you hear a special song or attend a wedding or funeral. Or we may get teary eyed when someone says something to us that may hurt us or make us feel good with an affirmation. Tears may come while watching the famous Hallmark movies.
For me, as an Italian, my tears come easily for many reasons. But I was certainly surprised when I was reading a commentary by St. Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373) on the Prodigal Son. Who would have thought that what St. Athanasius said would move me to tears? During the second week of Lent, we had the reading of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32). This gospel has such rich imagery of God’ overflowing unconditional love and mercy. Can you imagine being embraced by God who pours out love so freely to each of us? That ought to move us to tears.
Let me share what St. Athanasius said: “The father kisses him as a son, he counts him worthy of the divine feast and gives him a precious garment he once wore. What happened is the result of the father’s grace and loving kindness. Not only does he bring his son back from death, but also through the Spirit he clearly shows his grace. To replace corruption, he clothes him. The father provides shoes for his feet so that he will not travel far again. Most wonderful of all, he puts a divine signet ring upon his hand. By all these things, he begets the son anew in the image of the glory of God.”
What a wonderful description of God’s gracious love poured out for each of us individually and communally. Imagine for a moment our loving, faithful God clothing you with love, grace, and mercy, giving you shoes to walk in the path of Jesus, placing a ring on your finger as a sign of covenant fidelity. Can you imagine yourself anew in the image of the glory of God? Really, that is what happens every day if we are open to God’s grace and promise. Could this move you to tears?
This is the promise of our loving God to each of us from the very beginning of time, every single day of our lives. Each of us needs to take time each day, savor the moment, embrace the goodness of God lavishing you with unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness. This is truly a graced moment that could move one to tears.
So, it really is not what St. Athanasius said, as much as it being aware one more time who our faithful God is, the God of mercy, forgiveness, and love.