September 11, 2022
As a younger child, I used to go to “confession” every Saturday night, and I repeated the same sins of fighting with my brothers and sister and disobeying my parents – for years.
I did not substitute a molten calf for Jesus in the blessed sacrament. I was not a “stiff necked person” who defied God. I was a young devout Catholic, and perhaps even a pious one. I did not do anything terribly wrong. I was helpful. I volunteered. I liked to hang around the Church, and I was admired and loved by all the elderly ladies.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I think about “confessing my sins” as just something we did. I never thought that God would zap me if I didn’t. To go to confession weekly was the norm.
Today, I do not need rules to motivate living a good life; today I want the love of Jesus in my heart to grow and overflow from me to others. For that, I ask Jesus each day. No longer do I focus on sins or failures. I focus on love, a powerful creative energy that God is only too willing to give us.
The goal of our Catholic life is not to be free of sins, but rather to live in and from God’s love. God knows that we often “turn aside from the way that God points out” (a comment God made to Moses in the first reading today). But no matter how “stiff-necked” we may be, God relents in the punishment that he threatened to inflict upon Moses and the people, then.
In the second reading, St. Paul remembers that he was a “blasphemer, a persecutor and arrogant” and St. Paul acknowledged how gracious Jesus was to him, even appearing to him. Jesus saved St. Paul, knocking him off his horse of pride. St. Paul spent the rest of his life travelling the Mediterranean world telling people that Jesus had saved him. St. Paul thanked Jesus forever after he encountered him in a very personal experience when was almost killed after falling off his out-of-control horse. For Paul, the virtue that Jesus showed him was Patience.
How patient God is with us!
Jesus broke all the relationship boundaries of the societies of his day, Jewish and Roman. The Jewish Scribes and Pharisees had set up a certain order to regulate people’s social relationships. Everyone had to keep their place – no social mobility. These leaders spent all their time watching Jesus, and they became increasingly furious when he did not follow the rules.
Jesus brought a freshness and a new life to a tired Old Testament religion: Love of God and neighbor was more important than social rules and religious etiquette for Jesus. Instead of a spirit of self-righteousness, and looking down a religious nose, Jesus advocated a little self-reflection on humility and an open heart to all. Jesus hoped that everyone who had lost their way in life would find their meaning for life, would trust God more, and develop and sustain a good, positive relationship with God.
Jesus was always interested in helping people “find themselves,” get their true bearings for life, include God His Father in their life, and find the Resurrection everywhere.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is speaking to two groups, the tax collectors and those considered sinners, and the Scribes and Pharisees. Instead of condemning either, he is trying to get them both to see each other as God’s children and trying to motivate them to take a good look at themselves and see where each group comes up lacking something very important – a true understanding of themselves and the way that they are living their lives.
There are many ways to get lost in life. It is important to tame our ego, to search, look for the truth, to have some personal discipline and invite God to help.
To reconcile – that is what Prince William and Harry need to do and anyone else who called into question the skin tone of Megan Markle’s children. A good heart to heart talk and apology would help. Everyone, every once in a while, we put our foot in our mouth. We say or do something that is inappropriate or hurtful and tactless.
In the parable of the two brothers, one squandered an inheritance, the other clung to every hope of getting the last penny of his father’s inheritance. Both were in love with each one’s self. The heart of the story is the father who was filled with compassion for both sons.
Who is the greatest sinner, the one who breaks a relationship or the one who refuses to reconcile? Both!
Let us call each other to life. Let us take steps toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Let us learn how to deal better with our perceived hurts. Let us turn grudges into conversations and handshakes. Let us work on being true to God and to ourselves!