Grace to you!
The British poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was, probably, one of the greatest poets in the early 20th century. Among his collections was a poem –The Hound of Heaven.
The poem, I believe, reflects the life and struggles of Francis, the son of a medical doctor, who also studied medicine but never practiced because of his interest in writing. Unfortunately, he made some terrible choices in life as many of us do, and witnessed the worst of human struggles. Addicted to opium and ending up becoming homeless, he was housed by a harlot, who picked him up from the gutters and provided for him before vanishing in the thin air. The litany of his strange life and struggles is long.
Yet, in the midst of these struggles, Francis composed groundbreaking poems, which immortalized his name after he died of mental issues and tuberculosis while still an addict. At least, three books of great poetry are attributed to him, in addition to a few other essays of pristine composition.
He was a man with a lot of challenges. However, his background and experiences of dealing with depression and alcoholism leading to general hopelessness and the worst of degradation opened his heart to the finest appreciation of divine mercy and grace.
In the heart of bitter despair, having encountered the tender loving heart of God, he wrote The Hound of Heaven. In the poem, Francis describes the relentlessness of God, who searches for us, his loved ones. The poem is the poet’s articulation of the unfailing love, mercy and compassion of God in search of a soul considered lost. Francis was describing himself, but he was also describing all of us in relation to God.
You can be certain of this: God isn't giving up on us. Like the great hound, God searches for us even when we are down to the dregs.
There is a biblical story which brings this to a more theological and clearer light. It is the story in the Gospel of Luke 15, what many call the three parables of divine forgiveness or mercy. The first two of the parables (my main interest today) describe individuals who are almost hopelessly, desperately challenged due to the miry stink of sin.
One is a lost sheep that has wandered farther and farther away from the home of peace. If not for God (represented by the shepherd), that sheep would never be found.
The second one is a lost coin, lifeless, confused and down in the gutters. It takes the hound of heaven (God, represented by the woman who swept her house in search of the coin) to pick him or her up from the gutters of hopelessness.
It’s beautiful to hear that God is always patiently, consistently, relentlessly searching for his people. He does not desire the death of a sinner. He wants the sinner to repent and be saved (Ezekiel 18:23).
God's grace flows like the ocean of mercy drawing us in, where we will find healing, peace and pasture.
So, no matter how estranged and sinful the conducts of a brother, a sister, a friend or a child is, trust in the mercy and grace of God. Don't give up on that person. There is always hope.
Act like God in searching for the lost soul through prayer and sacrifices, offering everything up for them and being ourselves, God’s instruments of tenderness and grace for those in need.
I am united with you in prayer today, as we lift our desperate cases in need of the Hound of Heaven’s intervention. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.