Maria Marinelli C ‘14
The Standard of Christ
“My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15: 31
In religious artwork, we often see Jesus depicted as a lamb holding a standard, or military flag. This powerful symbolism is not always appreciated for the deeper message it conveys.
During battle in medieval times, each side in an armed conflict had a standard representing their nation. When a brawl dismantled, the sea of soldiers made it difficult to know which direction a soldier should go to reunite with his army. The standard-bearers ran in opposite directions to lead their soldiers to safety in the midst of the chaos with their flags proudly raised.
The prodigal son was like a soldier at war. He had chosen to chase after a life of sin, thinking that it was the path to happiness. Standing beneath the standard of sin on the battlefield of spiritual warfare, he recognized his overwhelming emptiness. When we choose to distance ourselves from the Father’s love, we are left empty. That emptiness comes with the realization that we were created for more than sin. It propels us to seek something greater—virtue.
Returning to the Father after living in a state of sin is no easy task. A soldier who realizes his error in following the enemy’s standard is faced with a struggle when he makes the decision to return to his army. The other soldiers push and shove, and at times the standard seems far out of reach.
The prodigal son lived this struggle and returned home. Though he made a crucial mistake by ending up under the wrong standard, he did not betray his army by simply making himself a traitor. No; he risked his life to return to his standard, because it was there that he had placed his loyalty and trust. It was where he belonged.
We are soldiers. Every day we fight the battle. Our entire lives are spent in the midst of chaos. We maneuver our way through temptation, pride, lust, and greed as we struggle to live by Christ’s example. He carries the standard of holiness, virtue, and strength. At times we find ourselves looking to the other standard – the standard of sin – following it in hopes of finding the fulfillment that we long for. Often, that standard is more within reach than the standard of Christ. Other times we find ourselves standing still on the battlefield, thinking that our own battle has been won. But the standard-bearer is always running; leading you closer and closer to home. Our home is Heaven. If you don’t follow after him, you will be left behind; trampled on by the soldiers behind you. Our final rest comes when the battle is won and we are safely Home. As St. Augustine wrote, “Lord, our hearts are rest-less until they rest in You.”
We cannot become complacent in prayer. It must be the center of our lives; the driving force behind all that we do, and the fount of hope from which we come to recognize our purpose as sons and daughters of God.
Reflect on your life, your choices, your thoughts, and the desires of your heart. Where are you on the battlefield? Whether you are standing under the enemy standard, or looking to the standard of Christ, do not lose faith; be brave. Look at your life, your choices, your thoughts, and your heart.
When the war is over and done, under whose standard will you stand?
Lord, give me the strength to strive after you. Let me never grow weary of chasing after your standard as I grow in holiness.
Give me the grace to courageously follow your path in difficult times. Amen.
Jos 5: 9a, 10-12 or 1sm 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Ps 34: 2-7 or Ps 23: 1-6,
2 Cor 5: 17-21, Eph 5: 8-14, Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32, or Jn 9: 1-41