Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2006
God offers us prodigious invitations
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
A couple of years ago, Barbara Kingsolver wrote a book entitled, Prodigal Summer. It tells the story of a young woman who got pregnant during a summer within which everything seemed to be dangerously fertile. From the plants, through the insects, through the animals, to the people, everything seemed to be teeming with fecundity, overactive, overabundant in seed.
Nature is like that, teeming with everything, prodigal, fertile, overabundant, wasteful. Why else do we have 90 per cent more brain cells than we need and why else is nature scattering billions of seeds, of virtually everything, all over the planet every second?
And if life is so prodigal, what does this say about God, its author?
God, as we see in both nature and Scripture (and know from experience), is over-generous, over-lavish, over-extravagant, over-prodigious, over-rich and over-patient. If nature, Scripture and experience are to be believed, God is the absolute antithesis of everything that is stingy, miserly, frugal, narrowly calculating or sparing in what it doles out. God is prodigal.
Dictionaries define "prodigal" as "wastefully extravagant and lavishly abundant." That certainly describes the God that Jesus incarnates and reveals.
We see this in the parable of the Sower. God, the sower, goes out to sow and he scatters his seed generously, almost wastefully, everywhere - on the road, among the rocks, among the thorns, on bad soil and on rich soil.
And, it seems, God has an infinite number of seeds to scatter, perpetually, everywhere. God is prodigious beyond imagination.
Among other things, this speaks of God's infinite riches, love and patience. For us, there is both a huge challenge and a huge consolation in that. The challenge, of course, is to respond to the infinite number of invitations that God scatters on our path from minute to minute.
The consolation is that, no matter how many of God's invitations we ignore, there will always be an infinite number of others. When we've gone through 39 days of Lent without changing our lives, there's still a 40th day to respond. When we've ignored a thousand invitations, there's still another one waiting. God is prodigal, so are the chances God gives us.
Sister Margaret Halaska once captured this wonderfully in a poem she entitled, Covenant:
The Father knocks at my door, seeking a home for his son:
If we look back on our lives and are truly honest, we have to admit that of all the invitations that God has sent us, we've probably accepted and acted on only a fraction of them.
No matter how many of God's invitations we ignore, there will always be an infinite number of others. God and nature are prodigal. Millions and millions of life-giving seeds blow everywhere in the world and we need only to pick up a few to become pregnant, fecund, capable of newness, maturity and of producing life.
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