Return: A Word of Encouragement
I’ve been asked to kick-off St. Brendan’s series of Lenten reflections and I’ve been given the theme of “Return”.
Now it would seem that in the entire process of
restoring one’s heart to the grace of God
that repentance would be the most difficult element for people to undergo.
It is true that repenting of one’s sins is challenging, awkward and can even be embarrassing. I’m sure most Catholics in the confessional can attest to having that mixed bag of emotions.
But, I would argue that the “Return” element might be even more difficult for people and bring about even more anxiety. If we take a look at the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s Gospel, first we see that though the younger son had the resolve to tell his father that he has sinned in hopes that he would be accepted back, he would first need to return from the “distant country” that he traveled to “squander his inheritance living life without control (i.e. life of sin)”.
Now try for a moment to put yourself in the younger son’s shoes: you spent all of your inheritance on sinful pleasures living a life without control, and now you begin this journey from a far off place in hopes that you will be forgiven and accepted back home.
Can you imagine all the thoughts, emotions and uncertainties that you might experience in the course of that journey?!?!
Going back to the Sacrament of Confession, what I’ve found and what I’m sure others do as well,
the difficult part of confession is not the actual confession… the difficult part of confession is standing in the line for confession!
Once you’re in there with the priest, you just rip off your sins like a band-aide and that heavy weight on your shoulders becomes lifted. But standing in the confessional line you have all these worrisome thoughts in your head: “Is the priest going to judge me” (
), “is he going to get angry” (
), “Is he going to tell my parents” (
and lose my job? no thanks…
Returning from sin and a life without control requires humble heart and a courageous soul.
Everyone desires forgiveness, but it takes humility and courage for us to be moved to seek it out.
We have to have resolve about returning to God’s grace, we can’t simply desire forgiveness but continue to live in a far off place.
That’s like desiring to be a professional athlete but never playing any sports. If desire is without resolve for action, what results is not any attempt at returning to God, what results is the continued condition of the younger son: prolonged separation from the Father’s grace and forgiveness with a spiritual life dying from hunger and famine in a far distant place from the Father.
We can’t just hope that we’re going to wake up one day and all the consequences of our sins, all the vices we’ve habituated over time, and all the relationships we’ve damaged in our life without control is all just going to go away simply because we desire it all to go away. We have to have resolve within our desire, we have to have the determination to do something, not just sit back and hope things will change.
Change requires a cooperation with grace
and we must act on the grace of a suffering heart that God reveals to us. The suffering heart of Christ is the revelation of the humility of God to send His only Son as an act of defiance against all that afflicts us. Let us return to Him who desires our love and freedom and not stay distant in a far of land. God bless the faithful of St. Brendan Parish and praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever. – fr. brown
Looking to learn more about Ash Wednesday?
Check out this video from Deacon Jim Morris' favorite biblical scholar!
on Wednesday, February 17 at 6:10AM