“The prodigal son gospel reading is the perfect, ‘leticia’ for the fourth Sunday in Lent…leticia means joyous…we are happy because we’re now halfway through Lent,” the new Pastor, Fr. Jose Alberto Vasquez at St. Patrick’s Church in Arroyo Grande, California, claimed.
Then he exclaimed that reconciliation is not about sin but forgiveness. Several times, he made that statement but sounding more like a declaration. I am still thinking about his words uttered last night during the Vigil Mass. Particularly that statement about sin.
I should know this. I should know that I go to confession for forgiveness…of course, why else do we go?
And yet, the sequence of the words in Fr. Jose’s homily feel new.
Because we focus on our failures, imperfections, the depressingly persistent disappointments of ourselves. His entire homily was about reconciliation-confession- how to prepare, what to say, what to expect and how to feel once we leave the confessional. In my almost twenty years in this faith, I have never heard a priest discuss this subject, never mind offer a five step template for it. But this man did, using himself and the Prodigal Son as models.
For many of us, the anticipation, worry and anxiety about going to confession consumes far more time and energy than does the actual act itself. And for good reason stated Fr. Juan. One of the priests in the seminary where he studied did what no priest should ever do. When the young seminarian began to list his sins, rather than merely listening, the confessor asked for explanations.
“How could you do that?”
“How many times should did you think that?”
“Why did you do that?”
The result for the young priest was a vow: “I will never ask questions, make judgments, ask questions…I will do what I have been ordained to do, provide absolution…no more and no less.” His ‘5 steps to confession are those of the Prodigal Son.
- The fact of our sinful nature is not in dispute, state the wrong, simply and clearly.”I have sinned against God and you, I no longer deserve to be called your son.”
- Prepare by deciding the answers to these questions. “What do I want to say?” “What are the things I need to say?” “The things that are disturbing my peace?”
- Feel sorrow.
- Be willing to do penance. “I no longer deserve to be your son.”
- Resolve never to commit the sin again.
Most of all, consider the response of the betrayed father. “Kill the fatted calf!! My son who was dead now lives.!”
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’bBut the father said to his servants,‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.