Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hound of Heaven

Poor Francis Thompson just could not find his way in life.

He was born in 1859 in Lancashire, England. Like his father, he studied to be a doctor but could never keep up with his classwork. After failing the medical examination three times, he decided to give everything up and move to London to be a writer.

However, the big city was not kind to young Francis. Unable to find work, he became homeless and was reduced to selling matches on the street corner. It was also during this time that he became addicted to opium and any money he managed to earn went to supporting his habit. Francis, finding himself in a state of utter destitution, cried out to God for help.

A prostitute noticed him in an alley close to death from starvation. She took him in, fed him and nursed him back to health. Off the streets, he decided to dedicate himself to his dream of writing poetry. After his first poem was published, he entered a monastery for two years to try to break his addiction to drugs. During this time, he wrote some of his most moving poetry and finally found the success he had hoped for.

However, the years on the street had taken their toll on him. He finally died of tuberculosis in 1907 at the age of 48.

Though he had lived a short life, his poems went on to inspire many other writers. His most famous poem is called “The Hound of Heaven”. In it, he describes God as a hound who relentlessly pursues him. No matter how hard he tries to flee from Him, God continues to chase after him. No matter how destitute he became as a drug addict, God never gave up on him. He finally has to stop and ask himself why he was trying so hard to escape from God’s love.

The poem is not easy to read, but it conveys a powerful and beautiful truth about our Heavenly Father. He loves each one of us with a burning passion. He cannot rest until He has found a way to reach us. No matter how hard we try to avoid Him, no matter what other choices in life we may make, He will not give up on us. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less or to keep Him from trying to convince us to love Him back.

The many parables that Jesus tells are all concerned with this great love of God for His people. In today’s gospel, He tells the story of a king who sends out invitations to his son’s wedding. Though the guests fail to respond to his invitation, he will not take no for an answer. If the invited guests fail to arrive, he insists on inviting others no matter how lowly they may be. He will have his son’s wedding banquet filled with people no matter the cost.

Like the king in the parable, God has sent an invitation to each of us, and He is waiting for our response.
It may often seem to us that we are the ones who are seeking God, but the opposite is in fact true. God is searching for us. No matter what it is we think we may want in life whether it be happiness or love or meaning, all of it can be found in our Heavenly Father. There is nothing we desire in life that God cannot provide for us. After all, He created us and everything in this wonderful world. If we would only stop and let Him catch up to us, we might just begin to realize it.

Why do we so often hide from God and not open the invitation we have received from him? Could it be that we are just so wrapped up with the concerns of daily life to answer His call? Is His invitation left on the table along with the junk mail and unpaid bills? Or are we afraid that if we  accept His invitation we will have to change? Are we afraid what God might ask of us if we do say yes to Him?

It is natural to be concerned about the cost of following Jesus. It is not easy to live the message He preached and to accept the invitation to live a life of total trust in Him. But we should never forget that there is also a high cost to saying no to that invitation. It means spending our lives chasing things that in the end can never satisfy us. It often means years of  feeling empty inside and wondering what is missing. It often means literally exhausting ourselves to earn success and accumulate possessions that fail to give us the security and status we thought they would. And, in the end, it could mean that we would have lived our whole lives on this planet without fulfilling the purpose for which we were created - to know, love and serve God.

God is seeking each of us out. He sent His Son to make clear to us how much He loves us and how desperately He wants us to love Him in return. We do not have to go looking for God because He is already looking for us. All we have to do is stop and let Him catch us. All we have to do is stop allowing fear to keep us on the run. Then we can accept the invitation to a personal relationship with the God who created us. We can know the joy and peace that our hearts were created to feel. We can stop running and start living.

No comments: