The recitation of the Prodigal Son brought the man to tears. No one understood the deep spiritual wounds he was carrying until he heard for the very first time what the meaning of the prodigal son represented. How could a father forgive a son for squandering his inheritance and in essence, betraying his family? Can there be such a thing as unconditional love and true forgiveness of sins? These were the questions pondered by this man as he contemplated his journey to Jesus Christ and whether he would eventually encounter the answers to these questions in the Catholic Church.
When the proclamation of the Prodigal Son began, the man in question at first became indignant, but as the story continued at the very moment where the father ran toward his son moment he saw him, it became evident to those around this soul him that his heart was moved. As the parable concludes, the celebration that ensued offers hope that no one is beyond forgiveness and redemption. Jesus’ unconditional love for us must simply be accepted if we choose.
An assent of faith
The journey of accompaniment is incomplete without a visible gradual attempt to assent to Divine truth. A significant error I consistently discover in the practice of accompanying someone to Jesus Christ is that the person being led is not led to Christ at all. Instead, it becomes a sociological experiment on a person’s insights rather than the development of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. A genuine act of accompaniment involves an assent of faith. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explains;
Assent is produced by the will not by the understanding’s own direct insight: the particular kind of freedom of choice involved in the decision of faith rests upon this. “Cetera potest homo nolens, credere non nisi volens”, says Thomas on this point quoting St. Augustine: Man can do everything else against his will, but he can believe only of his free will.
Ratzinger places significant emphasis on the reality that man cannot rely on himself to believe and engage in an act of faith. He must develop a dialogue with God that involves both the human will and the intercession of the Divine will. This is the apex of accompaniment where guide and nurture the person toward the development of a fruitful and active dialogue with God.
A conversion of the heart
In the Good Shepherd discourse, we read how our Lord describes the characteristics of the Good Shepherd as one who enters or engages the person directly. As the relationship continues to mature and strengthen the person will follow the shepherd or in this case, the shepherd is you and I who actively choose to accompany someone toward Jesus Christ. Jesus describes himself as the door, the entryway, the first instance of encounter and accompaniment so that the person may discover the love of Jesus Christ in abundance. In the end, the climax of the Good Shepherd discourse is Jesus’ proclamation that He has the authority to lay down his life for all of us. The point here is that the act of accompaniment is sacrificial and redemptive in nature because the ultimate end is the cross of Jesus Christ where a conversion of the heart finds its home. St. Paul reminds us that to owe nothing to no one except to love one another for he who loves his neighbor has been fulfilled by the law.
The Catechism of the Catholic provides us with a pathway where our accompaniment should lead:
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This is “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”:2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation—he has sent his own “beloved Son.
The Jesus Prayer
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
St. John Henry Newman
 Ratzinger, Joseph, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, The Church as Communion, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2005), p. 23
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