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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making Return Home Easy for Prodigal Sons and Daughters…

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the younger of two sons demands his half of his inheritance, goes out to a distant land and squanders it on wine, women and song (so to speak). After blowing everything he had, a famine hits the land and he finds himself broke, starving and working in a pigsty.

The ungrateful son realizes that his father’s hired help is living better than he is. He repents of his wrongdoings, swallows his pride and heads back home, thinking that he would ask for forgiveness and tell his father to treat him like a one of his work hands for he no longer deserved to be treated like a son.

Instead, when the father sees him from afar, he is moved with pity.  Not able to contain himself, the father rushes towards his son, and before the son gets a chance to finish his apology, the father puts the finest robe over his son, rings on his fingers, and sandals on his feet. If that weren’t enough, the father kills a fatted calf and throws a feast for him because as he tells the older brother, "your brother was dead and has come to life; he was lost and now is found."

In preparation for Holy Week, the Archdiocese of Miami is celebrating its very first Reconciliation Weekend, where priests will be available for extended hours on Friday and Saturday to hear confession and dispense God’s Mercy and Forgiveness.

Forty parishes from Key West to Deerfield Beach will participate.

One of the greatest gifts that Christ gave His Apostles was the authority to forgive and retain sin, which the Church calls the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Healing.  It is reconciliation because it's an opportunity to reconcile with God.  Sin separates us from God and Confession restores us.

The Weekend of Reconciliation is an initiative of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. In a recent blog, the Archbishop states:
It is no secret that while communion lines have grown, few “line up” anymore for confession. Yet, the spiritual crisis of our age – the loss of the sense of sin – will not be overcome unless our Catholic people rediscover the consolations of making a “good confession.”

Increasing the opportunities for one to approach the sacrament might help. The experience of our priests who hear daily confessions at the Ermita, the National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, shows people do come to confession when it is readily available. During Lent, our parishes do schedule special penance services in which the faithful can participate in the Rite of Reconciliation with individual confessions and absolution.
Many times in my life I have found myself in the pigsty.  Unfortunately, as I have stated before, I wasted way too many years away from the Church and the Sacraments.   I was like the many Catholics that Archbishop Wenski mentions in his blog that had lost the sense of what sin is.  In my own self-righteousness, I always thought I was a "good" person.

However, after rediscovering my faith in recent years, I realize that being a "good" is not good enough.  I am called to holiness and to be a reflection of Christ.  Say what?  That may seem like an impossibility but with God all things are possible

I now love Confession and try to go to every three weeks.  Sometimes I go with my wife and older daughter (although, when we go as a family, it gets a bit interesting.  One time my son tried to get into the confessional with me).

Now, let me just say, while I enjoy confession, a few weeks ago, I had a funny experience in the confessional.  I went on my usually third week, and as I was finishing, the priest (who by the way, I truly enjoy confessing with because he always gives me spiritual guidance before giving me absolution), says, "Since we are in Lent, let's try to work through this reoccurring sin of yours.  I want you to come back next week." 

Ok... I thought reluctantly.  Really?  Next week?  So soon? 

After completing my penance, I started thinking, ok, so just how much sinning can one possibly do in a week?  I shouldn't have come to Confession today! 

Well, guess what?  Each night that week, I would do an examination of conscience before going to sleep and I realized something.  I sin a lot!  As we recite in the penitential rite at Mass, "in my thoughts and in my words.  In what I have done and what I have failed to do."  It's amazing how often I fall into sinful patterns and thus hurt my relationship with God. 

Well known Catholic speaker and author, Fr. Larry Richards, says, sin is not about breaking rules, it's about hurting our relationship with God.  He also says that at the center of sin is I.  Anytime we put "I" first, there is sin.  That is the constant battle in my life.   

Having to go to Confession the following week also forced me to be more astute of my transgressions, which is why Pope Benedict XVI goes to Confession on a weekly basis (and so did Pope John Paul II). 

There is no sin that is greater than God's love for us.  God is merciful and forgiving.  However, like the prodigal son, we must repent of our wrongdoings and start walking back to the Father.  He will surely meet us on the way...

For more information on participating parishes and schedules, see here.

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