If you have ever wondered what God is like, really like,
this parable is where you must begin and end.
Which of these two children do you want to be?
Would you like high adventure on the road – or stay close to home?
Do you think it would be fun to go on a spending spree?
Or do you find satisfaction in a good day’s work?
Do you want to end up with nothing, envying the pigs for their slop?
Or would you rather be convinced you’ve never done anything wrong –
and you can’t think of any gift your Father ever gave you?
Can you imagine your Father running toward you, overjoyed to see you?
Hugging you, crying from pent-up sorrow but also swelling with joy?
Well…are you prepared
to abandon pride and self-regard and simply admit being wrong?
Or can you not think of any reason to go to confession?
As I’ve said before, Lent is all about conversion.
If you and I aren’t thinking about, praying about,
working toward our own conversion,
we are missing entirely what Lent is.
Confession is one of the best helps God gives us,
but this tool doesn’t do us much good if we leave it in the drawer.
I want to commend many of our parishioners:
you work at developing the habit of regular confession,
and that’s a really good move,
and a powerful example to your kids and others.
Let me stress, especially to our kids:
if you only go to confession once or twice a year,
you’re not getting anything like the benefit from it you could be.
Why do I say that?
If, starting from your first confession in 2nd grade, you go once a year,
by the time you’ve done it ten times, you’re in college!
At that pace, I bet you feel awkward every time,
because you can’t quite remember what you’re supposed to do,
and that makes all the easier to put it off.
If the only time you go is right before Easter or Christmas –
when lots of people are going, and there’s a long line –
guess what happens?
You’re a little nervous, Father Fox is kind of hurrying things along –
so, you shrug and think, what’s the point?
Let me introduce you to other possibilities.
Instead of once a year, go once a month.
This morning, from 9 to 10, it was quiet in the confessional,
I dozed a little!
And I had plenty of time for those who came.
Like almost anything, if you keep at it, it gets more familiar,
and, instead of investing all that mental energy around the “how-to,”
you can actually focus on the meat of it:
being truly honest with God and your own need to change.
Going frequently to confession will enable you to SEE yourself –
without flinching, without excuses, and without being ashamed.
To be able to admit, “I am a sinner, I failed,”
without being wrecked by that recognition, is powerful;
because then you and I realize our sense of worth and self-respect
doesn’t come from some false image:
“I can do it myself” or “I’m really a good person!”
God doesn’t love us because we’re so capable, or so impressive;
there are no “becauses” with God’s love. He loves us, PERIOD.
As I’ve heard Father Vonderhaar say many times:
God loves us AS we are,
but he loves us too much to leave us WHERE we are.
And I want to pause here and make one point in bold, capital letters,
and I am begging you to believe me when I say:
When you go to confession, and the priest gives absolution,
your sins are gone.
Gone, gone, gone-issimus gone; as gone as gone can be!
And, that includes ALL OF THEM. “But I forgot one!”
It’s INCLUDED! It, too, is GONE!
In the first reading, Joshua and God’s People crossed the Jordan
and left Egypt behind, forever.
That is a sign of what God’s absolution in confession means to us:
You and I leave those sins behind forever.
True, like the Children of Israel, we often want to go back.
You and I are unsteady. But God is not unsteady.
The Father is a Rock. He never wavers.