atholics in the Diocese of Paterson, especially those who have been away from the Church, are invited to experience God’s healing love and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. Catholic churches in Morris, Sussex and Passaic Counties will be open for Confession every Monday, March 6, 2017 to April 3, 2017 from 7:00 PM-8:30 PM.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Nothing is more startling and, at the same time, more consoling than the truth for which Jesus lived and preached and died. It is this: God is love. As the Psalmist says, “The Lord is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true” (Ps 86:15).
Throughout his public ministry, Jesus shows the face of God as compassionate and merciful in his healing miracles and exorcisms. Even before Jesus issues the summons to repent, he announces, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). The kingdom is nothing other than the presence of God making his love known and felt in our lives.
Jesus opens us to the profound meaning of the kingdom with his parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15: 11-32). It is found at the very center of Luke’s Gospel. It is the very heart of the gospel itself! The son who takes his inheritance, squanders it away and finds himself unfulfilled is each of us. We take the gifts that God gives us and use them against God’s will. We are the ones left empty, longing and desiring more than our sinful lives can give.
As in the parable, so in life. God is the Father who sees us, runs to us and embraces us. He takes our feeble confession of sin and turns it into a moment of great rejoicing. Our sins strip us of our dignity. God clothes us with his grace and peace. Nothing can make God stop loving us. In fact, as Paul says, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5: 8).
When Jesus preached such great love to sinners, the self-righteous took scandal. But not the tax-collector and the prostitutes (cf Mt 21: 31). They recognized in his ready forgiveness of even their worst sins that God was drawing them back to Himself. The self-righteous would not acknowledge their sins. They did not accept the free gift of God’s forgiveness offered in Christ. But others, like Zacchaeus and the woman caught in adultery, did and found peace.
Through the ministry of the Church, God offers us his forgiveness in Christ Crucified and Risen. In the great sacrament of Reconciliation, God is already running to meet us. He wants to welcome us. He wants to exchange our dirty rags of prideful self-indulgence with the righteousness of Christ Crucified. He wants to bring us back into the joy of his home and into the fellowship of his Church. He longs to see us reconciled with Himself and with others.
Like the prodigal son barely able to confess his sins, we, at times, are ashamed and even afraid to name those evils that separate us from God who loves us so much. But the Father is not ashamed to recognize us as his own son or daughter. He longs to wrap his arms around us. He is waiting to welcome us to home.
Now is the time to meet the Lord in Confession and know the joy of coming home.
May the Lord who calls us to be one with him lead us through repentance into the embrace of his love.