HEADLINES:

Our Spiritual Reflection is taken from a meditation on our Daily Prayer of the Order that begins with Lord Jesus.

We might begin by reflecting on the question: Just who is the Lord Jesus? Jesus asked His apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” When we think about Him, do we envision a stern taskmaster, or a gentle, loving Lord?

In a way, these two images of the Lord can frame different images of what the Order of Malta ought to be about. For our Order is both a military and a hospitaller order, the one word suggesting force and discipline, the other gentleness and healing. Just as our Order has both characteristics, so does the Lord; we ignore either at our peril. Scripture offers us many vignettes of both. But for the present, let us attend to the gentle, loving Lord.

Many of us grew up thinking that although the New Testament presents a kind Jesus, the Old Testament offers us a harsh and vengeful God. While it is easy to understand this reaction, the Old Testament is also filled with images of a merciful, loving and forgiving Lord. Recall the words of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah (Isa 49; 15-16 (NJB)

 

Even if these were to forget,

I shall not forget you.

Look I have engraved you on the palms of my hands


The New Testament contains hundreds of passages showing God’s love and compassion. Archbishop Alban Goodier, SJ, in The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ concluded that a dominant theme of the Gospels was Jesus’ determination to look past the bad and see the good in every person.
Archbishop Goodier found this theme in the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son. As Luke tells the story, after the younger son had rejected his father and spent his share of the inheritance, he finally decided to return.


The father in this parable, who clearly represents the father of us all, must have been watching the road in hopes that his son would finally come home – because he “caught sight of him while he was still a long way off.” Imagine a parent so loving that he waits, day after day, year after year, watching patiently for a son who had in effect said to him: “I can’t wait until you are dead.” As Archbishop Goodier said, the Lord “will see the good effort and will ignore the deception; while it is yet a great way off He will discover it, and will be moved with compassion, and, running to it will fall upon its neck and kiss it.”

 

This generosity of the Lord is what leads us to service in the Order. It is as if He has been so “hospitable” to us that we feel we must be Hospitallers to others.

 

Adapted from Malta Reflections by Shep Abell, published by the Paulist Press 2005.