Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Return of the Older Brother


Confession – it’s one of those words that comes up during lent. It’s one of those words that some people dread. I’d like to reflect on it as it truly is. Confession is a Sacrament and all Sacraments are celebration. Jesus began his miracles at a big party and he continued celebrating his whole life. Today is the famous gospel of the Prodigal son. I would just like to take a moment and reflect on the Older Brother, the often overlooked son of the story.

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.

For some reason we have this notion of admitting guilt to be a dismal punishable experience. But we here otherwise in the parable of the Prodigal Son and the other brother doesn’t quite know how to deal with this.

There is great joy and celebration in the sacrament of confession. When the prodigal son came home the father threw a party. Now if your one of those that goes to confession regularly or maybe has been to the sacrament after a long time you know what it feels like when you finally do it. It’s a huge relief! You walk out of there floating on air. It’s wonderful… there’s something about being able to reveal yourself, get it all out, even the things you’re most ashamed of, embarrassed by, horrified to reveal, and know it has been forgiven. There’s no guessing or presuming or hoping – the words are spoken and absolution happens. There’s also something about the sacramental aspect of it. To say it to the priest and see his eyes continue to look at you with love and compassion even after everything he hears. It is truly a joyful celebration. And we are called to remain in that celebration… but sometimes we step away. There will be times when we stop celebrating, when for some reason we leave the dance, and look on from the outside. Sometimes it happens subtly, sometimes the record skips abruptly. Maybe you find yourself missing the celebration because of some sin that is holding you back. We hear in the very first line of the Gospel “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.” He welcomes us in confession and we eat with him in the Eucharist. People often also ask me as a priest how often they should go to confession. The question really is: “How do I know when I have left the celebration?” Well, this is when I know I need to go.

He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'

I know when I begin to look at others with disdain I have left the celebration. When I begin to judge others and get trapped in my own anger. It’s time once more to return to the sacrament and be immersed in God’s unconditional love. When I stand outside pouting when others are experiencing true joy, I have left the celebration. When my heart is hardened and I begin to become self righteous and angry and hold others in disdain it’s because I have once more chosen to set off to a distant country and squander my inheritance. I have once more found myself with the swine, in need, dying of hunger. And I must once more confess. I have sinned against heaven and earth, and I no longer deserve to be your son.

Maybe you’ve left the celebration and there is something keeping you from sharing this meal. Come back. Come and experience the Father’s unconditional love and embrace in the sacrament of Confession. We will have our Communal Penance Service tomorrow at Our Lady of Guadeloupe at 7pm. Don’t let anything keep you from sharing in this meal of the Eucharist. Come and confess your sins. Get it all off your chest. Know and experience forgiveness in a way like no other and return once more to the celebration where you will here these words echo in your heart.

'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.

But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'"

2 comments:

  1. I have read this homily many times and find it incredibly powerful. This is a real keeper! Thanks Fr. Mike!

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  2. the Royal Gossett FamilyJune 16, 2010 at 7:55 AM

    Dear Fr. Michael,I am now getting in the last phase of ministry and that is of leaving a blessing. Fr. I see the presence of God on your life. God looks at the people through your eyes of compassion, fun and great love.The people (youth & kids)follow you with out hesitation.
    They try natural, fun things, knowing that they wont get hurt because you are there.I hope you recognize the wonderful gift God has given you and that is His Love. Use it, respect it,be transformed by it, you have a great future ahead, as well as a pretty good right now. your friend ...in Christ great Love Fr. bruce...(kids call me Fr. Goose)

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