Journey With a Father’s Heart – Day 3

Day 3 – A Tender and Loving Father

Excerpt from Patris Corde

The history of salvation is worked out “in hope against hope” (Rom 4:18), through our weaknesses. All too often, we think that God works only through our better parts, yet most of his plans are realized in and despite our frailty. Thus Saint Paul could say: “To keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Since this is part of the entire economy of salvation, we must learn to look upon our weaknesses with tender mercy.

The evil one makes us see and condemn our frailty, whereas the Spirit brings it to light with tender love. Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty. Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser (cf. Rev 12:10). That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us, yet he does so only to condemn us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains, and forgives us. That truth always presents itself to us like the merciful father in Jesus’ parable (cf. Lk 15:11-32). It comes out to meet us, restores our dignity, sets us back on our feet, and rejoices for us, for, as the father says: “This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).

Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history, and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.

Meditation

“All too often, we think that God works only through our better parts, yet most of his plans are realized in and despite our frailty.”  The Holy Father’s words strike familiar chords within our hearts.  How many times do we consider our weakness to be a bothersome obstacle to God’s action in us?  How many times does God show us the opposite throughout the pages of Scripture?  Salvation history, time and again, was built upon the participation of fragile, sinful, imperfect men and women.

The English translation of the Holy Father’s writing fails to pick up on a nuance of his intended meaning: God works THROUGH our frailty, not only in spite of it.  Is it not often when we are most aware of our weakness that we are most aware of our need for God and open to his grace?  Our experience of our littleness and insufficiency is only an opportunity to rend our hearts entirely malleable to the power of God’s merciful, abundant, unmeasured love and grace.  Experience of weakness is an opportunity for the experience of grace if we are only willing to allow it to be.

Saint Joseph was a weak man, as are both you and I.  He fell terribly short of “what it took” to be the father of God’s son.  Who would dare to claim to be qualified for such a mission?  Yet, he allowed himself to be overshadowed by the tender gaze of the Father, and this loving gaze enabled him to give God room to pour out overabundant grace where he was miserably lacking.  Will we, too, allow this loving gaze to reveal to us the truth of who we are in God’s eyes?  Will we allow it to win out over the dissonant voices of doubt and shame that all too often enslave us?

Questions for Reflection

  • “We must learn to look upon our weaknesses with tender mercy.”  I may currently be far from this attitude, but am I willing to allow God the Father to gently teach me to look upon my weaknesses from the perspective of his own merciful gaze?  Is there a particular part of my personality, my history, or my fallen tendencies that I particularly struggle to contemplate with mercy?  Have I ever asked God the Father to show me how he sees this part of me?
  • “Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us, yet he does so only to condemn us.  We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains, and forgives us.”  Taking the Holy Father’s words as a point of reference, whose “truth” does my own vision of myself best resemble?  God’s or the evil one’s?  What about my vision of others?
  • “Faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, and our weaknesses.”  Do I truly believe this?  Is there a specific fear currently gnawing at my heart that the Lord invites me to give over to him so that he can speak words of hope and peace into this situation?  Perhaps I can take a moment to speak about this with him.

 

Prayer

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

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