Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Short Reflection on God's Forgiveness.

In today's mass readings the gospel was that of the prodigal son. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parables which Our Lord gives us, and one to which all of us can relate too well. In it, the son who has fallen into a life of vice acknowledges the fundamental lack which his sin has led to, as well as the true joy he had before it. He resolves to return home, and as he stands at the gate, his father runs out to greet him, embrace him, and immediately calls for celebrations.

The most prominent feature of this parable is the joy of the father, as he who was lost is found. There can be no greater comfort as we prepare for the Sacrament of Penance, than that the God from whom we have by our acts of will wandered is running more than halfway to meet us. Receiving the Lord's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be one of the hardest aspects of the spiritual life; the stains we would rather leave in the dark all called out into the light by Goodness himself. It is to be highly recommended therefore, that before the examination of conscience and the entering of the confessional, the Christian rereads or at least recalls the message of this parable.

Fr Pacelli is less than pleased to see Damian again

The second reading I wish to discuss is taken from the first epistle of St Paul to Timothy. In it Paul writes, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith." He continues, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience..."

Now, this gives me great hope for my vocation, whatever it may be. If the apostle to the gentiles who almost single-handedly managed to spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire after an intimate encounter with the Risen Lord can confidently assert that God's mercy is inexhaustible, I no longer need to worry! Not to mention that we all know what a rotter Paul was before he became a Christian - I still haven't killed anyone! Though Damian is a potential candidate for stoning.

Conversion of Fr Roncilla on the M1 North

Finally, I wish to mention briefly the Old Testament reading taken from the book of Exodus. Moses is interceding with the Lord on behalf of the Israelites, and he says, "Why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched...?" There are only two things I wish to say; firstly, Moses' role for the Israelites wandering in the desert prefigures "...the one mediator between God and mankind, the man Jesus Christ" who intercedes before God for Christians, who, like the Jews, find themselves in a foreign place which is not their home. Again, this should be a great source of hope for us.

More significantly however, Moses' words point forward to the event underpinning that reality. "...With arm outstretched..." As the Lord says in the psalm, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint...", again prefiguring His Crucifixion. The last thing I wish to say about the Lord's forgiveness then is that this wonderful free gift I have described above was given to humanity at a very large price, for the debt we entered into when we committed our first mortal sins was far greater than we could ever pay. Receiving this ineffable love inevitably sets us on fire, so we pass on this living flame, as we learn to love all men. That is the ultimate catechesis for heaven.

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