The Loving Mercy of God
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-32) is probably Our Lord’s most famous parable, and it is also one of the most important, because we all need God’s mercy. Unfortunately many are afraid to ask God for it, or the devil persuades them they are so far gone and that God is so disgusted with them that they are not worthy or deserving of His forgiveness. But thankfully God doesn’t see it like this.
In today’s First Reading from the book of Exodus (32:7-11, 13-14), the Israelites have broken the first Commandment and committed the sin of idolatry by worshipping the golden calf and offering sacrifice to it. God is rightfully angry and threatens to destroy them, but He allows Moses to intercede on their behalf and He then relents. Moses is a type or pre-figuring of Christ Who came to reconcile us with the Father. And then St Paul in the Second Reading, (1 Timothy 1:12-17) speaks of himself as one of the worst sinners who has persecuted Christ, but goes on to describe himself as the greatest beneficiary of God’s mercy. “Christ JESUS came into the world to save sinners” he says. Paul was transformed from one of the greatest persecutors of the Church into a great Apostle and missionary, and with St Peter he is one of the two pillars of the Church. God’s grace can work wonders if we are open to it.
So we must never be afraid to turn back to God and ask His mercy. I suspect many of you have not been to Confession for many years, perhaps sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of shame. But as a priest, whenever someone comes in and says, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been many years since my last confession”, I always feel so happy because it is such a wonderful thing to be an instrument of God’s grace and forgiveness, especially when a person has been away for a very long time. It’s the devil who wants to keep you away, trying to keep you proud and afraid to confess your sins. He wants to keep you in spiritual bondage. Don’t allow him to do so. Come to the Sacrament. Be restored to God’s grace. Have Christ once again alive in you. The present times for Confessions are Fridays 6-6.25pm and Saturdays 10.30-11.30am, or by arrangement with one of the priests. There are also Confessions Monday-Friday at Mount St Bernard Monastery 2.30-3pm.
God wants all of us to reach out to sinners and welcome them back into the Church. Remember, Christ died for everyone, and we need to get as many as possible to embrace the salvation He offers through conversion. This is the mission of the Church. So let us not criticise or judge people, but when the opportunity arises, gently encourage them to come back to church and to go to Confession. Let us always remember the story of the Prodigal Son and how the father welcomed him back. That’s what happens every time a sinner returns. “There is more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Fr Paul Gillham, IC