Friday, July 3, 2009


When I gather the children to talk about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I tell them God loves us unconditionally. He is always there. Sometimes, though, we turn our backs on Him...but He NEVER, EVER turns His back on us.

God is always there with arms wide open, waiting to envelope us in the biggest hug we could ever imagine!

In this world, that kind of love is hard to come by...let alone understand. I tell the children that when we are baptized, we are welcomed into the family of God...the Church. God gifts us with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, though, we lose our way...we let anger, fear, ego, jealousy, spite, greed, and other selfish motives interrupt our grace-filled relationship with God and one another. We all know, this is called sin.

Now, children know that when they disobey their parents there are usually consequences...punishment...time out...loss of privileges. That is the human way of discipline.

God however, has a different way...Perfect Love.

It's not always easy for the children to understand that God does not punish as human parents so often do. They come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with trepidation and fear. They equate penance with punishment.

I tell them the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

As you know, this is the story of a father and two sons. The younger son decides one day that he wants to go out into the world and live his own life. In an insult to his father (inasmuch as he is saying his dad is worth more to him dead than alive) he asks for his inheritance. The father gives it to him and he is off.

The son squanders every penny and winds up working feeding swine. He is so impoverished that he would gladly eat the pods he is feeding the pigs. One day, he comes to his senses and realizes that his father's servants have more than enough to eat.

He decides to journey home, throw himself at his father's mercy, and ask to be hired on as a slave. As he approaches home, his father gets word and runs out to meet him. The son drops to his knees and tells the father he is no longer worthy to be called his son.

Rather than say (as many a parent exercising the dreaded "tough love" might), "You've got that right, it's about time you came to your senses! Get inside and suffer your punishment!"

The father in Jesus' parable instructs the servants to get the best robe and put it on his son along with a ring and sandals. The father further instructs the servants to kill the fatted calf for a grand celebration for his long lost son!

Of course, there is another, older sibling in this picture. The one who was with the father the entire time. Always there...always perfect...this son comes home to a grand celebration and wants to know whats going on. When he finds out that his brother is home, and that the celebration is for him, he becomes angry and complains to the father that he has never even been given so much as a goat to celebrate with his friends!

The father tells him that he was with him the whole time and that everything the father has is his. BUT, the one who was lost has been found and everyone must rejoice. The father is exercising Perfect Love.

This is the love God extends to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all hurt others, God, and, in the process, ourselves. We all sin...that's the bad news.

The good news is...before He died, Jesus gave us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us be better children of God. When we sin, we can go to confession. Once there, we can unburden our souls and become enveloped in God's perfect love. Just as the younger son in the parable was enveloped in his father's love...even, to the consternation of his older sibling.

In Reconciliation, we meet with the priest. His is a two-fold job in this. When we sin, we not only strain our relationship with God, but the person we sin against, and the entire community of the faithful...the Body of Christ. Therefore, while the Holy Spirit works through the priest to absolve us of our sins, the priest also represents the other whom we have sinned against, and the community which also suffers by our sinful actions.

When we enter the confessional with a truly contrite heart, penance is not punishment, but rather the first concrete step we take in the new life we are living...healed and renewed.

I tell the boys and girls that on the day of Baptism our soul is clean and fresh. As we make bad a child's case: lying, talking back, striking another, cheating on a test, an adult's case: gossiping, lashing out in anger, abusing drugs, stepping out on a spouse, having an abortion...our souls become muddied and we become confused. The more sins we pile on, the easier it becomes to sin and, the more confused we become.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our souls are renewed and refreshed. We are given a clean, new page upon which to write the rest of our lives.

No sin is too great for the Perfect Love of God our mediated through Christ, His the power of the Holy Spirit!

So, who are YOU in the parable of the Prodigal Son?

Are YOU more like the father who loves perfectly?


Are YOU more like the child who has been lost?


Are YOU more like the older sibling who resents that which is given the other?

If the answer is bad is the good news:

Yes, even YOU, can Come Back Home to the Body of Christ...The Church!

In fact, we are waiting for YOU!

No sin is too great for the Perfect Love of the Holy Trinity!

What are YOU waiting for?

We want to welcome YOU back...won't YOU let us?



Love is a mutual self-giving that ends in self-recovery. YOU recover GOD, and HE recovers YOU. ~ Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen ~

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