Lent, 4th Sunday. Four Things the Church is Serious About (Part 4 of 4)
The Church is Serious about God’s Mercy
The Prodigal Son is one of the most striking and memorable parables of Jesus (Luke 15). A young son takes his father’s inheritance and blows it on partyin’ and pimpin’. Finally, empty and hungry, he has the gall to come back home and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.” Amazingly, the father takes him back! Only God our Father is that generous. The true “eldest son,” Jesus himself, died on the cross so that we sinful, selfish, wayward children could come home again.
Christianity believes that God created this world to be a Paradise. But our sin has turned paradise into a kind of concentration camp. Here the powerful grab scarce resources while others go hungry. Here people are used, abused, and thrown away. This is not how the world was meant to be. In fact, this world of sin and death is just a tiny part of a giant world filled with love, joy, peace and true freedom. The liberators are coming and they will set the captives free. Those who have followed the Devil and his demons in pride, selfishness, sin and abuse of others will also follow them into the punishment that has been prepared for them. Those who have lived loving lives and accepted God’s merciful love will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Evil will be defeated forever. The victory is so close we can almost feel it. In the end, Love wins. This is not just a global truth, it is a personal one. The true battle between good and evil is not fought on a battle field but in every human heart. It is this battle that spills out into family, nation and world. Who will rule your heart? Will you accept the true Kingship of Jesus Christ, or will you try to be your own master and wind up a slave to passions and vices?
Come experience God’s Mercy
You probably think of your priest like the “eldest son,” faithfully working at home for his father. It might surprise you to know that I try to go to Confession every month, for one simple reason: I need God’s mercy. Jesus frequently offered people God’s mercy with words like, “Your sins are forgiven; go and sin no more.” When he Ascended, he gave this power to priests (John 20). You can receive God’s mercy many ways, but if you really need to dump a load, nothing works better than a good Confession. The Church still expects every Catholic to make use of Confession at least once every year. This way we can stay connected with the merciful love of God. Catholics don’t seem to believe in God’s mercy any longer. We like to think of ourselves as good people but deep down we know that isn’t the whole truth. We hide the truth from others and even from ourselves, and lose out on the chance to let love win more of our hearts. We know we need forgiveness but we stay away from the most powerful moment of forgiveness. Perhaps we have forgotten how, or were never taught how. Perhaps we are afraid that we will be yelled at or rejected for what we have done (believe me, I know the feeling). Maybe a priest did yell at us once. Perhaps we are afraid the priest will think badly of us. The prodigal son waited a long time to come home because he was afraid of how is father would react. You are only one Confession away from discovering what he discovered: the amazing mercy of God. (10 Mar 2013)