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CONFESSION AND THE PRODIGAL SON
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Year of Faith: 2013 - 2014
4th SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C - LAETARE SUNDAY
To confess or not to confess … that is the question! We could point out a number of reasons to justify why we go to confession citing Biblical and Traditional sources of our faith but more often, they don’t really matter for to many Catholics they would rather AVOID doing so. True? I think it is. I came across this article from Catholic Transcript Online years ago underlining Top Ten Reasons to Avoid Confession (See link below). As we spend a period of rest on Laetare Sunday or Mid-Lent Sunday, let us reflect on those reasons (pointing out the Top 3 on the list) and place them parallel to the story of the Prodigal Son who, in his own way, realized the importance of going back to his father:
1. Top Three goes, “The priest might yell at me. I feel terrible about the stuff I’ve done so I don’t think I could deal with it if I got yelled at. They say priests don’t do that and that he is far more likely to talk about how much God loves me, but I’m still worried. If I don’t go, I can avoid the whole thing.” Who among you here has this same reason? Do you have the same fear as some people might also have? But given that it may be true, should we stop going to confession?
The Prodigal Son in the Gospel after realizing his own mistakes humbly readied himself for whatever his father would do to him upon his return. He could be rejected, denied entry to a place he once called “home,” or just like what most people fear, being “yelled at” by his father. But he never thought of those things. At the back of his mind, he knew his father - a father who provides for his servants more than what he’s provided for as he tended the swine; a father who cares less about his shortcomings but his will of being found; more importantly, a father who would grace his presence not with words but with gifts symbolic of his LOVE for the lost son. If we are afraid of being “yelled at” at the confessional, remember the prodigal son and always bear in mind that behind the humanity of the priest, who could possibly yell at you, is a Father known to us who is all ready to embrace us and ready to offer us His gift of forgiveness.
2. Top Number Two: “I’m not ready to STOP SINNING YET [emphasis mine]. To be honest, I like my freedom. I like hanging out in bars, reading girlie magazines and Internet porn, and looking out for myself. After I have my fun, then I’ll get serious about God … maybe after I settle down and get married and have kids and grow old?” This reasoning is born out ignorance about what the Sacrament of Reconciliation could offer. Each time we receive this sacrament of healing, we are made stronger to resist temptation and overcome sinfulness. Each time is an opportunity to receive God’s graces that make us WHOLE as Christians. Unless we start going to confession, we will continue falling into the same sin over and over again. “Opportunity does not knock twice at once door,” and so they say. Make the most of every opportunity that Christ offers us to be healed and so become worthy witnesses of God.
The Prodigal Son realized what authentic freedom is the hard way after squandering his inheritance on a life of dissipation. True freedom does not rest upon doing what he simply likes doing, but it rests upon doing what he must do in loving unconditionally such as that of his father. He did not find it in women, sexual pleasures, alcohol or any occasions of sin but in choosing to love just as his father did. Such is what we get when we CHOOSE to go to confession. We choose not only to receive it, but we choose it primarily in order to be engulfed by His love so as to love and not to sin again.
3. Top Number One: “Sin isn’t what it used to be. Back when I was growing up, everybody sinned. Nowadays, it’s just considered lifestyle choices. Besides, didn’t confession go out with Vatican II?” This is very wrong on several counts: First, if it be a lifestyle it has to be practiced in a manner that it forms part of our identity as baptized Christians and not just something that people choose out of a whim. If it is a way of life, it has to be a healing way of life, which we practice in order to fully exercise our Christian identity. Second of all, Vatican II did not end nor abolish the Sacrament of Reconciliation but reinforced it emphasizing the loving mercy of the Father as in the Prodigal Son marked by the universal call to holiness. In fact, Blessed John Paul II who receives the sacrament weekly in his lifetime once said that frequent reception of the sacrament is an advantage as “we are renewed in fervor, strengthened in our resolutions, and supported by divine encouragement.”
Let us learn from the Prodigal Son, who had a change of heart and humbly presented himself back to his father’s loving hand. Let us not go to confession out of a whim and be discouraged by preconceived anxieties that the sacrament may bring us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a GIFT freely given from God. Let us not waste those opportunities when the sacrament becomes available. Like a child who yearns and happily receives a gift from his/her love ones, let us receive the sacrament not only with happiness but with JOY in our hearts.