Bottom line: In the parable of the younger son, Jesus teaches us what matters when we confess our sins.
A young mom told about her experience in an earthquake. She was traveling with her five-year-old daughter when the earthquake struck. The rumbling woke them from a sound sleep and the mom instinctively clutched her daughter. They began to pray the Our Father and when they got to the part about, "forgive us our trespasses," the mom started thinking about her sins - and, maybe, there was one she had not asked forgiveness for. Perhaps there was a lie or something else she had done, but then she just thought about God's love, how he wanted to embrace her, like she was hugging her daughter.
Well, they survived unhurt, but that mom's experience does illustrate today's Gospel. The younger son examined his conscience, was ready to confess any sin - but in the end the father simply embraced him.
We should have that picture in our mind when we come to confession. People sometimes tell me they are worried they may not have made a good confession, that there was some sin they did not confess or did not confess properly. When that feeling overcomes us, it is good to remember the younger son. Yes, he examined his conscience. Yes, he was contrite. His shame seared his mind, but when he finally came to his father, the boy didn't even have the chance to blurt out his confession. The father threw his arms around his child; he brought him a fine robe, sandals and a ring.
St. Paul helps us understand what is going on here. He says that in Christ we have become a new creation. In Christ God has reconciled the world to himself - not counting our trespasses against us. When Jesus went to the cross, he took with him our shame, our sins, all of our human misery. He reconciled us to the Father and made us ministers of reconciliation.
You and I have a marvelous opportunity to experience that reconciliation. Next Saturday priests from all over the Archdiocese will be at St. James' Cathedral, from ten in the morning till five in the afternoon. Think of it not so much as a group of weak, sinful men - which we priests certainly are - but as the Father waiting to receive you. Make a good examination of conscience, but what matters are not all the details, but your contrition and the Father's inconceivable mercy. This Archdiocesan Day of Reconciliation is part of our Cathedral's Centenary (one hundred year) celebration. Do not miss this unique opportunity.
At the beginning of the homily I mentioned how a mom young mom embraced her daughter. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us about a father who throws his arms around a wayward son. Just so, God the Father desires to receive us. Make your examination of conscience and confess your sins. But do not worry if you become tongue-tied and make a hash of it. God does not need your eloquence - nor even your thoroughness. He wants you and, in Christ, he will make you a new creation.
From Archives (Year C homilies for Fourth Sunday of Lent):
A New Creation (2010)
Confession of Sins and New Creation (2007)
The Reproach of Egypt (2004)
Return of the Prodigal Son (2001)
Who is The Prodigal Son? (1998)
Homilies for Year A Readings for RCIA Scrutinies:
Small Gesture with Enormous Promise (2008)
Seeing and Knowing (2005)
Men Who Went Blind (2002)
Fatal Blindness (1999)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Rachel's Vineyard Retreat, Northwest Progress & Henri Nouwen on Reconciliation)
Preaching Schedule (March 18 to July 1, 2007)
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