Sunday, June 16, 2013

Farewell to St. Ambrose and St. Ignatius – Fathers and Confession

Well… today, many thoughts are going through my head; the theme of the readings, Father’s Day, and this being my last Sunday Mass here. My last official day isn’t until Tuesday, June 18, but this is my last weekend with you as your Associate Pastor. My new assignment, as many of you know, will be at Holy Trinity in Fredericktown and Holy Rosary in Manton. They are in the same general area, between Bardstown and Springfield, off of US-150.

The readings this weekend present a theme of reconciliation and conversion and they remind me of some of the most profound moments of my time here as a spiritual father to you: celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. But this message isn’t just for me. Even though Father’s Day is a secular holiday – in the Church, we celebrate today the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – it can give both natural and spiritual fathers the opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at our fatherhood, to see how things are going, to see how inline we are with the Fatherhood of God. Father’s who lead the way in reconciliation and conversion will probably have families and children who live lives formed by these virtues as well. But first, fathers, you and I, must see the necessity to begin with ourselves. This challenges me as I move on to my new spiritual family.

When we examine ourselves, men, if we are honest with ourselves, we know what keeps us the furthest from God. For example, for David in the account we heard from the second Book of Samuel, his issue was lust. He saw a woman he wanted so he took her and sent her husband to the front lines of battle to get him out of the way. It took the prophet Nathan to help him realize that he was on a road of suffering that would last his entire life. When David finally confessed that he had sinned against the Lord, the Lord forgave him, and set him on the road to life. Nathan answered David: “the Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” The Lord set him on the road to conversion, to turning his face toward him again.

When we hear the word “conversion” we often think of “converting” from Protestantism to Catholicism or from Judaism to Christianity, for example. But what I mean by “conversion” is that call from the Lord, to continually, daily, turn our hearts away from sin and toward him. Ongoing conversion should be a part of every Catholic’s life. God gives us the grace to see and acknowledge our sins, to repent and turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness, and to change our lives, trusting in his help. This we do progressively, every day, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation. This time of year, going to confession should be one of those “ordinary” practices, so to speak, of Ordinary Time. Saints and popes have consistently encouraged us to go to Confession eat least once a month.  So if you state that it has been 6 months or more since your last confession, I will mostly likely remind you to try to go to confession at least once a month – that way you are doing a regular examination of conscience, becoming a more astute observer of the role of sin in your life.  You also grow in humility as you announce your sins to Christ.  And you receive the counsel of the priest to help you to avoid those sins and the grace you receive will “flow” through your life in a more continuous way and will be a better help to you.

Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I never realized the real power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and what it really meant. But, thank God, it has become an indispensible part of my life and one of the greatest motivators, along with the Eucharist, of my vocation to the priesthood. I treasure very much the Sacrament of Reconciliation and take it very seriously.  It has been a very fulfilling part of my priesthood to be God’s instrument of Mercy.  I go to confession once a month to my priest-spiritual director who helps me discern God’s will throughout my Priesthood. Through Confession, my Baptism continues to work in my life, washing away my sins; changing my heart and soul with the very love and mercy of God; turning on again the wellsprings of Faith, Hope, and Love; renewing my sonship with God and brotherhood with the Church; fortifying me to not sin again and to avoid the near occasions of sin; and removing all obstacles to God’s grace. Now I hunger and thirst to hear Jesus Christ Himself say, through my brother priest, “I absolve you of your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His Mercy endures forever. The Lord has freed you from your sins, Go in peace.”

Many of you go to confession regularly and I applaud you. Keep it up! Make sure it is always something you hunger and thirst for. It is necessary for a good life. If you are having difficulty going to confession, I understand that shame is a particularly difficult thing to overcome. If it’s laziness, ignorance, or misunderstanding, snap out of it!  But if its shame, a much harder obstacle, know that it can be conquered too. Throw yourself at the feet of Christ’s Divine Mercy, like the woman did in our Gospel today. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered at St. James every Saturday from 3-4pm or as long as it takes; and at St. Ambrose at 7:30am before the 8am Mass. Shame need not keep you from the sacrament forever or sentence you to a vicious cycle of confessing the same thing over and over. God’s Mercy endures forever, I’ve seen it unfold before my very eyes. Let Jesus say to you too what he said to the woman today: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Let his forgiveness enflame your heart with love, love for those who suffer, but especially love for Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

A father – myself first of all – who wishes to save his worldly life: the life of his own choosing and pleasures, free from any sacrifices of love, will lose his spiritual life and the spiritual lives of his family over whom he has been placed as their provider and protector. But a father who, with the help of grace, works through daily conversion, through daily taking up his cross, to lose his own life of choices and pleasures; who prefers God and his family over himself, will save his spiritual life and the spiritual lives of his family. Fathers, take your families to confession! especially now that the kids are home from school. The restoration of true, authentic fatherhood, natural and spiritual, and the salvation of our families depends on it.

I cannot thank all of you enough for the trust you have placed in me, in coming to me for confession. I hope that these have been spiritually rewarding experiences for you. I hope that the penances you received helped to restore and strengthen your relationship with the Church. The best way you could honor me when I am away would be to continue to make use of that sacrament.

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