The Readings Here
In all the time that I have served as a priest, I have had the unique privilege of ministering to a great variety of people in many situations and places. Of all the prayer and rites that I have ever celebrated, there is one that is seemingly simple, and yet as profound as the words of consecration. That is the prayer that is offered up at the absolution of a penitent. God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
These words were always so sacred to me and meant to be said with the greatest of respect and dignity. I often uttered them with a sense of humility and awe as I considered the impact of these words in the lives of the penitent and my own.
As I reflected on the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, or Laetare Sunday, (Rose Sunday, not pink,) and as I sat with the Prodigal family, I thought of the second reading from the Second letter to the Corinthians. In this brief reading, we see the entirety of the Gospel parable and its meaning, and to a certain extent, we see the absolution prayer come alive! In this beautiful reading, we are reminded of the great gift we have each individually received and continue to receive in Christ. We are reminded of God's constant and abundant love and how it is perpetually transforming us into a new creation even when we're pretty good at doing those things that can so easily lead us away from love.
In the second letter to the Corinthians, we are reminded that everything is made new by Christ who is blameless and yet took on our sin. We are looked upon as God's beloved children and we are dressed in the finest robes, with rings upon our fingers and sandals on our feet. We are made a new creation in God's love and we are transformed. This does not mean that we become perfect and without blemish, by no means, rather, it presents to us the invitation to an ever growing relationship with God. This invite though, is contrasted by the seeming hostility of the older brother, and quite frankly, it is an emotion that can become too easy to take on as my own. As St. Paul warns in another letter of his, it can become too easy to allow sin to cloud our vision. It is too easy to become cynical or skeptical of God's authentic and true intentions. We can too easily fool ourselves into believing that we are too far gone, or not worthy and we can believe ourselves to leave God behind since we are beyond hope. The truth is, however, that God's mercy and love are extended to each of us not matter where we are, who we are, or where we have been. Even when we believe that we are too far away from God's love, God is right there, ready to transform us. It's really up to us at that point to recognize that love. It is especially when we become distant that God's love comes closer, not because God wants to impose the divine upon us, but because the divine is always only ever a prayer away. To me, this is the most amazing thing about God's love, that I am made new every time I turn toward God. I am made whole, as I come to Christ, and I am made a part of the body of Christ, every time I partake of the Sacraments. I am changed and made more into the person God sees in me. I, yes me, am made new in God's love, and so are you, and it is very good. Because just as God smiled at seeing Adam and Eve take their first breath, God rejoices in seeing you and me come alive in Christ, and we are joyful, because we are redeemed!
As always, be blessed and know that you are beautiful and you are loved. I love you. Fr. Rick
P.S. It is ROSE, not pink!