Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful: that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee; may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from the sermons of Henry Parry Liddon
The Everlasting Spirit fills the world, not merely to stablish, strengthen, and settle the faithful, not merely to build up and sanctify Christ’s own through the sacraments, or ministry, or Scriptures of the Church, but to hover with quickening power and love, with gentle breathing and strong agonizing solicitations, around souls which, like the prodigal, have wasted their substance, their natural advantages and their spiritual endowments, in riotous living, and have ‘begun to be in want’.[…]
That memory of the happy past, of the spiritual plenty of his deserted home, of the fresh joyousness of the days which he spent beneath his father’s roof; that keen, strong perception of the nothingness of what the world can offer him, which sets on one side its education and its good taste, and its refinement, and its wealth, and its activity, and its grace of manner, and its affectation of principle, and its hold upon the multitude, and the homage it receives from the press, and the votaries it numbers among the great and the powerful, and penetrates straight down to the void which opens like a chasm beneath, to that loss of all real peace, real faith, real hope, real love, – to that inner existence, which is only superficially so active because it is at bottom so aimless, to that felt, that miserable, that present banishment from the Face of God, coupled with the torturing memory of his gracious smile in bygone says, and with the knowledge that thousands are at this moment basking beneath its warmth and brightness, – all this has not been given him for nothing. Though he be wandering in the streets of Jerusalem with Peter, or mixing with the world’s gaiety like the Magdalen, or in the last agony with the thief on the cross, he will arise and go to his Father. He will make an effort, and at the moment; he will seek the home of his early affections; rebel that he is, he will throw himself upon One whose nature and property it is to have mercy and to forgive; he will turn a deaf ear to the scorn of his companions, to the polished ridicule of the world, to the false prudence of the half-hearted, to the faithless murmurings of his own aching heart; he will not tamper with light which has been vouchsafed that he may obey it, and which may be dimmed or withdrawn if obedience is delayed; he will go to a Father who is a Father still, even to him, and ease his heart, even if he may not do more, by a full outpouring of its wounds and miseries, by an unreserved and broken-hearted confession: ‘While I held my tongue, my bones consumed away through my daily complaining. I will acknowledge my sins unto Thee, and mine unrighteousness have I not hid’ (Ps 22:3, 5). […]
It has been remarked that there is no trace in this parable of a Mediator who is sought, and who leads the sinner to the Father’s presence-chamber. It has been urged in reply that the agency of a Mediator, if not expressed, is implied and understood, both from the evangelic tenderness of the reception, and from the explicit assertion of Scripture elsewhere. And certainly, as when the Apostle speaks of our being justified freely through the Father’s grace, we might have supposed that the Father pardoned without sacrifice or atonement, if it were not added ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His Blood’ (Rom 8:24-25); so here the prodigal is received only in virtue of infinite merits and sacred sorrows, to describe which does not fall within the scope of the parable, though such description is given elsewhere. It is God the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who receives the penitent; it is ‘the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and Man’, which secures the reception. Nay, more, it is our Saviour, who, besides announcing to our race the welcome which awaits sinners at the hands of God, administers that welcome in his own human nature, since ‘God was in Christ reconciling’ (2 Cor 5: 19); administers it whether in the days of his flesh, or through the ordinances and ministers of his Church; administers it with a love which is as divine as it is human and as human as it is divine.