From Stones to Men
By Dan Mattson
I was reading something tonight from St. John Chyrsostom that recalled to mind the story of the Prodigal Son we heard in the Gospel reading for today. The Parable of the Prodigal Son always moves me when its read at Mass, for within its tale I see my own journey: I left my Father’s house, believing I would find happiness my own way, but found myself in the swine pits of the world’s view of happiness. Just as the Gospel says of the Prodigal Son, when I realized I was suffering in the swine pit, I finally “came to my senses,” and then made the journey back home to my Father.
When one is caught in a life filled with sexual pleasures, it’s nigh on impossible to see clearly. As C. S. Lewis once said, indulgence brings fog. This is something the Church Fathers always said too: sexual pleasures cloud the mind from seeing things rightly. This clouded vision is so hard to penetrate that it seems that God’s usual tool in such things is to bring suffering as a severe mercy into a person’s life.
As I read this bit from St. John Chrysostom tonight, I thought of all of the parents who I’ve met, who ask me what they should do after their child came out as a gay man or woman and left the Church behind. Usually, parents want to somehow find some sort of plan or program that will bring their child back home, and quickly. What I always tell them is to focus on loving their child, and to wait on the Lord.
We’re told by St. Paul that “love is patient.” Usually we interpret that as being understanding of our friends and family, to forbear with their particular shortcomings.
But I think part of the patience of love is waiting. We see this in Christ’s patient pursuit of us:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Icons and paintings of this scene always tend to picture a door with no handle. The door Jesus knocks upon, the door of the human heart, only opens up from within. He never forces himself upon us. He invites, he knocks, he woos, he loves.
And he waits.
The passage I read from St. John Chyrsostom today resonated with this patient call of love:
So then let us also deal with the heathen sort: with condescension, with love. For love is a great teacher, and able both to withdraw men from error, and to reform the character, and to lead them by the hand unto self-denial, and out of stones to make men.
Love: out of stones, it makes men. Love is what brought me home to my Heavenly Father. In the fullness of time, God helped me “come to my senses” through the chastisement he brought into my life. Just before Jesus says he knocks at the door, the Lover of our Soul says,
Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.
It was suffering that caused me to heed his knock. It was love that shattered the hard rocks of my heart that prevented the seed of his love to grow. It was the loving chisel of his hand that made me a man from the stone of my heart, hardened as it was to the core by sexual immorality.
Parents, be patient. Be loving, be not afraid, and as the Psalmist says, wait for the Lord, and pray that by your love, their stony hearts will be broken, and so that they will come home.
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