Tag Archives: reconciliation

Holy Bulldozer

2 Dec

cat-bulldozer-clipart-cat-bulldozer-clipart-cat-xuoljh-clipartHave you ever driven on an icy, winding mountain road, or sat in construction traffic for miles? Now think about driving on a wide, dry, flat open highway.  In which scenario can you arrive at your destination more quickly?  In which case is the journey more fun?

In today’s Gospel, John declares that his job is to “make straight his paths.” He has been tasked with unwinding, smoothing and clearing the highway between people and their Savior.

Your marriage is your vocation, which means it is your “highway” to Jesus. We all need to heed John’s admonition to straighten that path and keep it clear. How do we do this?  By learning simple ways to communicate or reconcile, by being reminded of our spouse’s wonderful qualities, by receiving encouragement from others.  In other words, by setting aside some time for marriage enrichment.  What better gift could you give your spouse this Christmas?  See www.joyfulmarriageproject for ideas.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage

 

The Prodigal Son . . . or Spouse

9 Sep

reconciliationCan you imagine the betrayal the father in the “Prodigal Son” story must have felt? The son wishes his father dead, takes his money and squanders it.  If you are married or have children, you have probably felt hints of this pain. We have all had times where we felt our spouse or children have squandered our trust and found it difficult to forgive.

In marriage and family life, part of forgiveness means giving up the right to bring the offense up later, using it to justify ourselves or holding it over our spouse’s head to get our way. The Father’s example is to run out to meet the repentant son, lavishing forgiveness and celebrating the return. In marriage and parenting, we do this by focusing on our spouse’s or child’s repentance. It costs us pride, but wins for us the joy of a restored relationship.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Taming the Monster

9 Jun

aaaOften the worst part about an argument with our spouse is the pain we inflict afterwards. We magnify the original hurt by rehashing it and adding to it, allowing doubt to creep in like a growing monster lurking in the darkness. We can ask, “Are we even still in love?”

Part of this pain can be avoided by realizing that in a fallen world, spouses will hurt one another, but it does not have to result in permanent division. We are reminded in the Catechism, “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (no. 1614). While God does not want us to sin, He is also not surprised when we do. So, we expect sin, but don’t let it divide us. How do we do this?

Forgiveness is the answer. Jesus says in this Sunday’s Gospel, “But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Forgiveness humbles us. It makes us more compassionate. In short, it makes our relationship stronger. So while we shouldn’t sin on purpose, we also shouldn’t panic when we do. Instead, we should make reconciliation our most urgent task.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Unlocking the Gift of Peace

29 Mar

aaaa“Peace be with you.” Jesus offers peace this Divine Mercy Sunday. The peace of Jesus is different from the peace that the world promises. Peace is not simply an absence of war, although that would be nice. The promise of Jesus is a peace that surpasses all understanding: a peace of the soul and a gift the world cannot give.

The pathway to this peace is forgiveness. In the same way that Jesus passed through the locked doors and offered His Apostles peace, He wants to pass through the locked doors of our hearts and broken relationships that are erected through sin and give us the gift of interior peace.

We participate in this peace in two ways in our families. First, we always have the gift of peace that comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Second, when we use the words, “I forgive you” and “Please forgive me” with our spouse and children, and teach them to use the same words, we allow Jesus to bring His gift of peace into our family life.

This Easter Season, and especially during this Year of Mercy, let us be generous in seeking God’s forgiveness in Confession, offering forgiveness in our family relationships, and praying that a spirit of forgiveness will be more prevalent throughout the world. When we do this, we participate in the victory of Easter over death and despair.

Ambassadors of Healing

3 Mar

reconciliationHave you ever overreacted to something that other people didn’t think was a big deal ? Is there that one person in your family, circle of friends or department at work who just makes you so mad?!

If so, there may be someone you need to forgive. While this may seem insignificant to your marriage, it’s not. Who usually bears the brunt of your painful relationships with others? If we are honest, it’s usually the person to whom we are closest–our spouse. They, not the person who hurt us, are the ones who get snapped at, shut out, or even blamed for things. Even if we don’t lash out at our spouse in anger when we’re hurt, we aren’t all we could be for him or her.

So what do we do? In this Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. That means that Jesus can not only patch up our wounded hearts, but He can make them new. He can lift the burden of hurt and help us forgive, not because the offending person deserves it, but because our spouse does. As spouses, we can become for each other “ambassadors for Christ,” encouraging one another to be reconciled for the sake of our marriages. Let us allow the grace of Lent to set us free to become the husband or wife we desire to be.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Multiplying Mercy

14 Aug

Sermon on the MountThis summer I’ve pounded my head on the table more than once as I’ve tried to help my antsy, highly distractible fourth-grade son learn his times tables. He especially struggles with the 7s. And despite his athletic prowess, the fact that all he has to do is count touchdowns (7-14-21-28-etc.) doesn’t seem to help much.

Just my luck, in today’s Gospel Our Lord turns mercy into a math problem. How often are we to forgive our neighbor? Seven times? Try seventy-seven times (that would be 7 X 11). In other versions of this text, presumably for more advanced math students, Jesus tells us to forgive 7 X 70 times (that would be 490 times).

Is Our Lord really trying to quantify our forgiveness, such that at some point we can comfortably say in good conscience that we’re off the hook, that we don’t have to forgive anymore? Absolutely not. He wants us to understand that we should expect mercy in the measure that we’re willing to give it. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Just as we’re in constant need of mercy, it stands to reason that we’re in constant need of extending mercy.

I expect mercy every time I go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess pretty much the same sins that I already told Our Lord through the priest that I was “firmly resolved” to not commit anymore. How can I then turn around and be miserly to others, and not cut them a similar break? That’s the question posed to each of us in today’s Gospel.

It’s not about math, and it’s not about being a doormat or naive. We don’t have to let others take unjust advantage of us. But we can and must forgive even if we think our spouse, child, friend, classmate, or colleague is not sufficiently “sorry” or committed to change his or her behavior. It’s on them to take our mercy and run with it.

Simply put, our job is to reflect God’s boundless mercy to all whom we meet.

Go and Sin No More

7 Apr

woman caught in adulteryIn today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), an episode found only in St. John’s Gospel. If we go back a few verses, we read that Jesus spent the evening at the Mount of Olives (John 7:53-8:1), the site of the garden known as Gethsemane, where Jesus would undergo His agony after the Last Supper. This site had always been a place of prayer (see 2 Samuel 15:32; Ezekiel 43:1-4), and Scripture records that Jesus often went to the Mount of Olives to pray to His Heavenly Father (Luke 22:39).

Then, early in the morning, Jesus went to the Temple, where people came to hear Him teach. This was the scene when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had just been caught in the act of adultery. As the scribes and Pharisees quickly pointed out, this offense was punishable by death pursuant to the Law of Moses. They asked Jesus what He had to say about this.

Clearly there was a mob mentality afoot, as the religious leaders clamored for the death penalty for this woman. But there was much more to it than that; they were setting a trap for Jesus. If Jesus called for the execution of the woman, He would be reported to the Romans, as the Jews were not authorized to administer capital punishment. If Jesus refused to call for her execution, He would be violating the Mosaic Law. He already was perceived as being overly indulgent toward sinners, and this would make Him appear to be a compromiser lacking any real moral authority.

Jesus did not choose either of these alternatives. Instead, He stood up and famously instructed the one who was without sin to cast the first stone.

Then Jesus did something very interesting: He bent down and began writing with His finger in the dirt. Saints and theologians through the centuries have speculated as to what Jesus was writing. At no other time in Scripture do we hear about Jesus’ writing down anything. It would be fascinating to know what He wrote on this occasion!

One tradition is that Jesus was writing down the sins of the scribes and Pharisees who were overly focused on the woman’s sin. Whatever Jesus was writing, the effect was that one-by-one they all walked away, beginning with the “oldest,” which in this context would mean the wisest. Perhaps the scribes and Pharisees were convicted by Jesus’ words and/or writings. Or maybe they believed that they were sufficiently righteous so as to execute the woman, but feared reprisal from the Romans. Regardless, from a “pr” standpoint, they were the ones who ultimately appeared weak and sinful in the face of Our Lord’s challenge.

This left Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus made explicit the fact that no one was going to condemn her, and neither was He, even though He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and could have “cast the first stone.” He saved this woman’s life. He showed her mercy. However, He did not condone the sin, but rather commanded the woman to decisively turn away from the sin in her life.

The Church reminds us that each of us is like that woman caught in adultery. In the Old Testament, God revealed that every sin is really an act of adultery, because it entails infidelity to God’s covenant of love. The prophets referred to Israel as His adulterous bride, and, in some ways, each of us by our sins has become that adulterous bride. Each of us merits to be stoned. But, Christ laid down His life to make His bride, the Church, holy and spotless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

He, the only one who is truly qualified to cast a stone, died out of love so that His bride wouldn’t have to.

All this should have three effects in us.

First, we should recognize the gravity of our sins and understand how deadly they are — not only do they kill us, but they killed the Lord, the one who loved us more (and more purely) than anyone ever will.

Second, we should seek out His mercy. He doesn’t want us to wait until others catch us in the act of a serious sin and drag us to Him, but rather we should come to Him on our own accord.

Third, we must stop judging others and begin to extend God’s merciful forgiveness to them, as Jesus clearly teaches us that the measure with which we measure will be measured back to us.

This week’s readings remind us of the inestimable value of the Sacrament of Penance. Just as Jesus cuts through the complexity of our sin to provide a just and merciful decision in today’s Gospel, so today in the confessional He is willing to do something “new” in our lives, as He applies the same wisdom and mercy as medicine so as to restore life and vitality to our immortal souls.

All of the elements found in today’s Gospel—such as sin, law, guilt, contrition, mercy, justice, and liberation—are at work in the confessional: a penitent who has broken God’s Law, a conscience troubled, sins confessed, a just penance assigned, an Act of Contrition recited, and above all, redemptive mercy received.