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.

Why Confess Sins to a Priest?

13 Jun

ConfessionalI think that the best way to answer this question is by beginning with Baptism. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, a person is cleansed of original sin and receives the “grace of a new birth in God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit” (St. Irenaeus, 2nd century bishop). Through this regeneration in water and the Spirit, a person becomes a Christian, born again as a son or daughter of God (Jn. 3:3-6; Rom. 8:14-17).

After becoming a child of God, one may freely damage or break off his relationship with God through sin. While venial sin damages our relationship with God, mortal sin actually severs the relationship through the loss of God’s supernatural life of grace within us (cf. 1 Jn. 5:16-17; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1854-64).

When a person chooses to kill that life of grace through mortal sin, God, who is full of mercy, seeks to reconcile His prodigal son or daughter to Himself (cf. Lk. 15:11-32). God alone can forgive sins, yet He empowered the Apostles and their successors–bishops and priests–to carry out His ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21). In fact, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation as His first gift to the Church on Easter Sunday. As St. John writes:

[Jesus said,] “As the Father has sent Me [with all authority, Mt. 28:18], even so I send you.” And with this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:21-23; cf. Lk. 10:16; Mt. 16:19, 28:18-20).

The Church’s power to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19, 18:18) provides further scriptural evidence for this sacrament. As the Church has taught for 2,000 years, the priest exercises his ministry in persona Christi (that is, in the person of Christ). This means that in confessing one’s sins to a priest, one truly confesses one’s sins to Christ Himself and receives pardon from God. Because the priest acts in persona Christi, he is the spiritual head or “father” of the community (cf. 1 Cor. 4:14-15). Thus, Confession reconciles us with Christ and His Body, the Church, whom we have wounded by sin.

Sin is never a private matter, since it always disrupts the order of creation and the whole community (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-6). Through Christ, the priest forgives the sinner in the name of the whole community, the Body of Christ. “Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (Catechism, no. 1445). In his New Testament Epistle, St. James exhorts us, “[C]onfess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).

The Sacrament of Confession is one of healing. It makes us aware of our sinfulness and our dependence on God; therefore everyone is encouraged to receive the sacrament frequently in order to grow closer to Lord and to one another.

So sin is not a solitary matter, nor does any Christian have a “God-and-me-alone” relationship with the Father (1 Cor. 12:12-26). Confessing our sins within the Body of Christ allows us to reconcile with God and strengthen the Church, providing a witness so that all may turn and repent (2 Pet. 3:9).

Going to Confession?

15 Oct

Have you been to Confession (aka the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation) lately? Would you like to go, or perhaps even feel that the Lord is asking you to go, but it’s been awhile? Well then, let’s review the basics so that you are fully equipped to respond to this godly inspiration.

Especially at this time of year, the most common form of the Sacrament of Penance is the Rite for the Reconciliation of Individual Penitents.

Many localities also offer communal penance services, typically before Christmas and Easter. These services streamline the process so as to accommodate a larger number of penitents, but they still involve individual confession of sins and individual absolution. And at any rate, Christmas is still more than two months away, so there is no reason to wait for the next round of communal services.

So what are the steps to going to Confession? Continue reading

Time for Confession

21 Mar

Tonight the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered in all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas from 6:00-7:00 p.m. as part of our Lenten Confession initiative. Whether it’s been a month or ten years since your last Confession, consider going over to the church this evening.

I’m frequently asked how often Catholics should go to Confession. Many people just want to know the minimum requirement. In that regard, the Church provides that all Catholics who have reached the age of discretion (approximately the age of seven) are required to confess their mortal sins once a year. In addition, if one has committed a mortal sin, he or she must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.

While that is the minimum requirement, the Church strongly recommends frequent reception of the sacrament–even when one has not committed a mortal sin since the previous Confession–as a means of growing in holiness (see Catechism, no. 1458). The Introduction to the Rite of Penance puts it this way:

“[T]he frequent and careful celebration of this sacrament is also very useful as a remedy for venial sins. This is not a mere ritual repetition or psychological exercise, but a serious striving to perfect the grace of baptism so that, as we bear in our body the death of Jesus Christ, his life may be seen in us ever more clearly. In confession of this kind, penitents who accuse themselves of venial faults should try to be more closely conformed to Christ and to follow the voice of the Spirit more attentively” (no. 7).

As for what might constitute “frequent” reception of the sacrament, monthly or even weekly Confession can make a significant difference in the spiritual lives of those who hunger and thirst for holiness.

After all, Christ’s first gift to His Church after rising from the dead was the gift of Reconciliation entrusted to His Apostles and their legitimate successors (Jn. 20:19-23), so that we may personally experience God’s mercy and peace.

How often should we go to Confession? Whenever we want to experience anew the mercy and peace of Christ. How about this evening?