Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rejoicing in the Reconciliation God Offers His People in Jesus

Today, March 6, the Archdiocese of Toronto is scheduling Confessions all day long in all the parishes.  This emphasis in this Year of Faith fits very well with the themes of Lent and particularly this coming Laetare (Rejoicing) Sunday (cf. the reflection below)

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Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year “C”) March 10, 2013
[Texts: Joshua 5.9a, 10-12 [Psalm 34] 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11-32]

Paul believed Christians had come to experience reconciliation with God in the act of faith that led to Baptism. This saving ritual caused them to enter into, to experience in themselves, the Paschal Mystery—the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. With Christ, they had died to sin and risen to a new life of holiness (cf. Romans 6.3-11).

Thus, reconciliation, a peace with God that has already been achieved, is the objective reality at the heart of each Christian's existence.

Still, because of human frailty which will continue to exist in a Christian's life until he or she is fully received into God's Kingdom at death, the power of sin continues to hold a measure of sway over aspects of their lives as disciples. This explains why the Apostle can plead with believers—somewhat paradoxically—that they allow the reconciling love of God to go on overcoming their sins: “We entreat you: be reconciled with God!”

As Christians gaze around the world, they note that reconciliation is needed in many spheres. If honest with themselves, Christians must admit that they too continue to need God's reconciling love and forgiveness.

This is why Catholics cherish the ritual in which they celebrate the ongoing interior movement of personal conversion and acceptance of God's mercy. It is called by several names: the Sacrament of Conversion, Penance, Confession, Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1423). It is truly for those who enter into it with the proper dispositions, a sacrament of heavenly peace and gospel joy.

Lent, with its stress on renewed conversion, the change of life that began in Baptism, is the ideal time in the liturgical year to experience the joy of God's mercy through a personal sacramental confession.

The parables of the lost sheep and coin have as their basic motif Jesus' and the Church's search for the lost. Their basic emotion is joy. They explain why Jesus relates to tax-collectors and sinners despite people's “grumbling”. Through Jesus and the Church, God goes to great lengths and effort and rejoices with great joy to find and restore sinners to himself.

God is not just the God of the wise (such as the learned “scribes and Pharisees”) or of the few who pursue God. God is more truly the one who searches, finds and cares for sinners. Though his culture mocked sinners and hated tax-collectors, Jesus gives every sign of encouragement to the rejected. He even welcomes them to the intimacy of dining with him at table.

Jesus' describes his pastoral method with the parable of a shepherd who had lost one of his hundred sheep, sought it out until he found it and then invited his neighbours to rejoice with him over his successful search. The point is that the one lost sheep receives special attention over the 99 that are safe and sound.

In the parable, the shepherd does not rejoice privately, but calls in friends and neighbours. They are to share in the joy of the rediscovered sheep. The image of celebration is enhanced by the shepherd's calling together of his neighbours. The parable's twin tale of a woman who had lost one of her 10 coins, swept and cleaned the house until she found it and then invited friends to rejoice with her. The joy of heaven is compared to a great party—all over one creature recovered for the Kingdom!

Both parables culminated with Jesus' observation of the greater joy in heaven “over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance”. The comparison does not intend to say the 99 are unimportant. Rather it is a rhetorical way of speaking of the “joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, reconciliation—the restoration of broken relationships—may be characterized as being found alive (“this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found”).

The celebration of Passover marked the beginning of the Exodus and its celebration in Canaan marked its end. Israel's entry into the Promised Land brought the period of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt to its divinely promised conclusion, anticipating Christ's triumph over sin in the lives of his followers.

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Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that, schooled through Lenten observance and nourished by your word, through holy restraint we may be devoted to you with all our heart and be ever united in prayer. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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