"How different is the father's right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son's shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother's hand.... Henri Nouwen on Rembrandt's The Prodigal Son
The Gospel Reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is perhaps one of the most familiar scripture passsages, Luke's version of The Prodigal Son.
Too often we think of this passage as an account of the son who came back, repented and was forgiven.
In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen asks us to consider the point of view of the father, or should I say the parent. He alludes to Rembrandt's painting about the prodigal son (pictured at the left) to portray a parent who is both firm and compassionate.
"As soon as I recognized the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand, " said Nouwen.
Nouwen would argue that the father's right hand in the painting is a symbol of God's compassion.
In this spirit, I would like to celebrate three friends and fellow activists who recently received recognition for their dedication and compassionate work on behalf of the poor.
Elaine Van Cleave
On International Women's Day, The ONE Campaign blog carried an extremely impressive tribute to Elaine Van Cleave of Birmingham, Ala., entitled International Women’s Day Profile: Elaine Van Cleave. I've come to know Elaine as one of the most passionate advocates of The ONE Campaign and one of the most dedicated grassroots leaders of Bread for the World.
How dedicated is Elaine? She would not let a bout of laryngitis stop her from meeting her commitment to speak at the Christian Methodist Episcopal's Spring Convention (161 churches) about the 2007 Offering of Letters. I could go on an on: She started the ONEAlabama Yahoo Group, she often speaks to College students about The ONE Campaign, and she was part of a group that convinced her member of Congress to become a champion for debt relief...
What makes Elaine tick? It's easy she says. "...simply, I am motivated by my faith. I strongly feel that my faith requires me to care for the 'least of these'. I think of Matthew 25:31-46 as the most powerful instruction in the Bible, when Jesus says, among many things, 'I was hungry and you fed me."
The ONE Campaign blog also published a piece entitled ONE's First Scholar: Laura Casselman. Laura has become the face of The ONE Campaign in Albuquerque. Any time there is an opportunity to set up a table, whether it is World AIDS Day or White Band Day or a Fair Trade Fair, Laura is there to gather signatures, pass out literature and sometimes white bands. Sometimes there are volunteers to help. Other times she does it solo. Dedication is her middle name. But Laura is not only motivated by ideals.
"I was one of the first to join ONE in my region. I've been a strong believer in equality and social justice since the 1960's when I was a teenager inspired by Martin Luther King," says Laura.
It's so great to see a fellow grassroots activist become the chair of the board of Bread for the World! David Miner and I served together on the BFW board for many years. On occasion, we would exchange experiences, but I really didn't know the breadth and depth of his work on behalf of BFW until I read the feature in the Indianapolis Star, entitled "He Writes the Wrongs of Hunger"
What a great tribute!
Isn't it great when Sen. Richard Lugar's office calls you "an honest advocate for the hungry?"
But his fellow Bread for the World members speak highly of his motivation. "He is the personification of the Gandhi statement that your message is your life," said Fran Quigley, a Bread for the World member from Indianapolis. "This guy just very quietly has devoted himself to working for hungry people for dozens of years."