Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
“What you mean I can use that word wretch? It’s not meant to be nice. It is not meant to be politically correct. It’s meant to be honest. That’s how I feel sometimes when I really look at my actions, my sin. I just want to puke, barf! If I’m totally honest with myself, that’s how my sin makes me feel.”
I once was lost (pause)
“Lost is defined as unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts. Its synonyms are ‘off-track, having lost one’s bearings, adrift.’ Yes, that’s how I feel when I’m honest and face my sin.”
But now am found, was blind but now I see.
“Yep, that describes it well, when in the sacrament of confession the priest prays, ‘I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’”
Today’s Gospel is so amazing, so heartfelt and also so convicting. This Gospel is about God’s mercy, God’s infinite, ever faithful, ever watchful, reckless-running-ever-embracing mercy.
It is also about the hardness of heart and brokenness of both of the sons; sons and brothers who turn their back on their Father and on one another.
This parable is so heartbreaking and heartfelt. It is meant to break our hearts open with the realization of our own sin and also our rejection of God and of one another.
This parable is not meant to be pretty. It is meant to be absolutely honest.
This parable is about me and you and meant for me and you..
Therefore, I want to invite you to experience the loving, overwhelming embrace of God the Father’s mercy. How? In and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; by going to confession.
I realize that the sense of sin, the honest acknowledgment and ownership of our actions and attitudes and the recognition of guilt has fallen on hard times, much to the detriment of the moral fabric of personal, familial and societal life.
We are becoming a society that blames, shames, passes the buck and defines what is right and wrong through the lens of my own, self-centered and selfish ego. We, like the Israelites of old, are replacing God with the idol of “self.”
Jesus knew this ancient curse and addressed it in this parable. He also gave us a remedy to help heal us and free us. It is the gift of the sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of Divine mercy, the sacrament of healing, wholeness and freedom.
Because there is so much misunderstanding and quite honestly fear about the sacrament, let me simply walk you through how to go to confession.
It begins before you ever get to church. It begins by a good and thorough examination of one’s conscience, of one’s actions and attitudes.
I invite you to take out your phones for a moment and go to our parish app. If you have not yet downloaded the app, simply go to your app store and search for Saint Michael parish and our logo will come up. It only takes 30 seconds to download.
Once you done that, you’ll see our homepage and our six elements of discipleship. The second element, “Worship” has a picture of Fr. Lou at the Westside Chapel. Touch “Worship” and on the next screen, the third line down is “Reconciliation.” Touch that and it will show you times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and also examination of conscience. If you touch that, it brings you to a brief examination of conscience based on the 10 Commandments.
This is one of many helpful ways to examine your life. As you do so, I suggest that you write down your sins. Be specific and to the point.
“An unexamined life,” wrote Socrates the great philosopher, “is not worth living.” We are meant for more than just superficial and inconsequential living.
Once you get to church, take a seat along the back wall or the new glass wall with those others who have come for confession. Usually Fr. Lou is in the St. John Vianney Chapel by the back wall and I in the St.Padre Pio Chapel.
When you come in, you have two choices: face-to-face or anonymously kneeling behind the screen.
When you sit down or kneel down, begin with these words, “Bless me father for I have sinned. My last confession was _____ however many weeks, months or years ago.”
The priest may say a few words of welcome and prayer or simply allow you to continue. Simply say something like, “These are my sins,” or “I asked God forgiveness for,” and then a simple, specific and direct way speak your sins.
This is a time of prayerful, humble acknowledgment and of opening of your heart to God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Please do not give a long explanation of why and most importantly, don’t tell other people’s sins, such as, “My husband makes me so angry. If only he would listen more, I can be more kind.”
Now, that might be true that he doesn’t listen, but that’s his sin not yours and you are there to confess your sin.
Once you have stated your sins you may wish to conclude with these words, “For these and for all the sins that I cannot remember, I ask for forgiveness.” Or you may say, “That’s all.”
The priest may offer a few words of insight or ask a simple question of clarification so as to offer a word of advice.
He will then give you a penance that is a prayer or action to do as a sign of God’s mercy and your willingness to amend your life.
Then you pray and act of contrition which is also on the parish app or on the card next to where you are sitting or on the kneeler in front of you.
The priest will then pray the prayer of absolution at the end of which you say, “Amen.”
After this, I almost always say, “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace. God bless you.” You might wish to respond, “Thanks be to God.” You may also offer a word of thanks to the priest as you leave.
Then go and pray the penance or do what the priest has asked you to do for your penance.
Reconciliation is a sacrament of mercy, forgiveness and healing. It is meant to free us from our burdens of sin and give us the grace, that is, the life of God to live differently. We all need this, every one of us. We are all sinners.
I close with these words of Pope Francis in his address to priests on March 6, 2014.
“Today we can think of the church as a field hospital. There is need to cure the immediate wounds, so many wounds! So many wounds! There are so many wounded people by material problems, by scandals, by failures and by the cruelty of the world and yes, even of the church. People are wounded by the illusions of the world and its false promises. We priests, must be there, close to these people, to our people. Mercy means first of all, to cure the wounds.”
Please know that it is a great grace and a humbling experience for me to be able to celebrate the sacrament with you. Please, never hesitate to ask for the sacrament. Before Stations of the Cross on Friday night there were still two folks who did not have the opportunity for confession and I told them they could come back once we finished and I would be there for them.
Well, thanks be to God other folks saw them in line and took advantage of the opportunity. It was a great grace for me to spend extra time on Friday night. It was totally okay. As you hear me say so often, I realized yet again, that I am blessed.
Let us bring the wounds of our sins to the healing mercy of God in this beautiful sacrament of reconciliation.