The gift of abundant love

Last week the young people with whom I have been working in preparation for Confirmation participated in a Reconciliation Service.

The entered the church anxious and unsure of what to do and what to expect. For those of us who work with young people this comes as no surprise; the sacrament of Reconciliation is not high on their priorities. Many, unless they attend Catholic Schools, might have only vague memories of their first reconciliation just before making their first Holy Communion.

‘Do I go into the box?’ – if you want to.

‘What do I say? I haven’t learnt that prayer.’ – it’s ok it’s on your sheet.

‘What if I forget what to say?’ – ask the priest to help you.

‘I can’t tell him, it’s too awful’ – Oh my dear child, and I gave her a hug.

And so after the Gospel and a guided examination of conscience based upon it* all the Candidates accepted the invitation for personal confession. Sitting in such a prayerful silence, they thought about their life with the Lord, entered into His love and sought His forgiveness.

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It was a graced moment.

Now I have to come clean. I like the Sacrament of Reconciliation: I like the promise, I like the theology, I like the symbol, I like imagery, I like the Rite and the Ritual. However that is not to say I find it easy. ‘Fessing up to stuff is never easy, but I do believe that it is easier to confess, to seek forgiveness than not. Of course a good Confessor is important and I have chosen mine carefully. I have been with my Spiritual Director and Confessor for almost 10 years – there is not much he doesn’t know.  He sees the patterns I miss, he holds the bigger picture when I become mired down, he reminds me of the hope when I despair.

It is through prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I have come to know the God of second chances. No matter what we have done, or failed to do, the Lord calls, invites, nudges us time and time again to repent, to turn back to the Him. As in the story of the Prodigal Son He waits for us, even humiliating Himself by hitching up his robes and running to meet us, clasping us in His unconditional forgiving embrace.

prodigal_father_christian_sculpture_lg.jpg by Tom White

prodigal father christian sculpture by Tom White

We are all as Ignatius calls us ‘loved sinners’ and therefore it is possible to approach the sacrament as one that is of help to our faith journey rather than something that shames and humiliates.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the many signs of God’s love for us, and God loves us with such an abundant love that we need not fear when we feel the Lord gently drawing us back to be the person we are called to be.

*Here is the examination of conscience based on Matthew 5:13-16.

If you use it and find it helpful please drop me a message.

 

YOU ARE the salt of the earth.

Salt seasons:

When have you failed to make a positive contribution to your

worshipping community?

To your family?  To your school?

To your relationships?

Salt preserves:

When have you failed to keep something fresh?

When have you allowed a relationship to go stale through inattention?

How do you keep your relationship with the Lord from going stale?

Salt cleanses/ purifies:

When is it difficult to speak out in moral situations?

When have you talked about someone? Spreading gossip, dirtying someone’s

character?

When have you spread untruths about someone to feel better about yourself?

Salt adds buoyancy:

How often do you allow yourself to come before the Lord and just be?

How does your behaviour keep others afloat?

Salt increases thirst:

Does your behaviour invite others to ask about Jesus?

Salt is valuable:

Do you believe you are made in the image and likeness of God?

How does this affect your actions?

Where do you not value in yourself?

Or others?

What do you really value? When has your focus been on things of little value?

When have you allowed an invitation to make a difference slip through your hands?

Salt spoils: 

When have you not been gentle with yourself or others?

When have you been too loud? Too self righteous? Unwilling to listen to others?

When have you behaved in a way that is unhealthy for you? Your relationship with others? With the Lord?

YOU ARE the Light of the World

Light illuminates: Where do you take the Light of Christ for granted?

When are you aware of needing Light to help you?

It cannot be hidden:

What actions would you like to hide from the light?

Light reveals:

How often do you ignore what Christ reveals to you?

Light comforts: 

Where have you not comforted those in need?

Light radiates: 

Where do you not allow the truth to shine through?

What stops you from being truly beautiful?

Light guides:                                          

When do you cause others to stumble?

What stops you from being a guide?

Light creates shadow:                           

Which actions work out of your shadow side?

Feel free to use this examination of conscience with groups but please remember to reference me, thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The invitiation

This week the Church offers us an invitation to love. We are invited to enter into the love of the Trinity ever more deeply, and to experience the love God has for us.

6 OT Trinity Rublev

Lent is not about punishment, the Lord knows life is hard enough! Lent is a space in the year for us to focus consciously on our relationship with the One who calls us beloved. Lent is a place where we can go to look at our lives in the light of this abundant, unconditional Love. For some of us, or perhaps most of us, to accept that invitation will not be without some pain. To reflect on any relationship and discover that it is lacking is painful.

Lent is a time of transformation. When we see where things could be better; in us, in the way we love, in the way we live, another invitation is given. We are invited to reconfigure our lives, to repent, to turn back to the Living Lord who waits for us like the Father in the story of the Prodigal son. Every moment, God watches and waits for us, waits for us to realise that things are not right, to want to return. When we do He rushes to meet us and enfolds us in a welcome embrace. We only have to make the first step, He does the rest.

Lent is about forgiveness. It strengthens the transformation. that begins when we want to repent.

If Lent is the invitation, then it is to Easter that we are invited and there are three ways to prepare for the Feast: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

These pillars of Lent are also not about punishment but are aides that enable us to see where changes need to made to our lives. I have lost count of the many times I mean to send a donation various charities and never seem to get around to it. Lent affords me the opportunity to focus on the why of that inability and to put a practice in place that might change it. Some research has shown that for a new habit to become embedded takes 6 weeks.

Spending time in prayer, possibly discovering a new way to pray, a new way to listen and talk with the Lord is an exciting prospect. As Keirkergaard says, we pray not to change God but to change ourselves. And ultimately that is what Lent does, it changes us.

Fasting is more that just going without, it can be a way of seeking solidarity, even for a short while, with our sisters and brothers for whom fasting is a way of life not a choice. It can be a way of refocusing on what is more important – our family, our faith, our community. It is also a way of exercising self control. Self control, rather than being something that binds us, can be a way of cutting the ties to the things that enslave us and living in freedom when its motivation is love.

Lent invites us to spend time renewing and deepening our relationship with the Triune God. Say YES to the invitation, spend time in prayer, fast and give to those in need so that we can participate in the life of Christ, transforming us so that we may ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”.

Happy Lent!

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