September 11, 2016
EX 32:7-11, 13-14 PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19 1 TM 1:12-17 LK 15:1-32
[Today’s reflection is written by fellow Conspirator Heather Anderson Renshaw, who blogs at Real Catholic Mom.]
Once upon a time, in my journey back to the Catholic faith, I clung to a lot of residual guilt and shame for my past transgressions. Despite amending my ways and seeking reconciliation through the Sacrament of Confession, I continued to hold on to the notion that perhaps God had not truly forgiven me for the things I’d done.
After all, how could He forgive how many awful choices I had made? How could He forget how many times I’d turned my back on Him and my baptismal promises? How could He discard the many, many times I’d sought the pleasures of the world instead of holiness and true freedom in Him?
It wasn’t long before I learned that this misguided notion that I couldn’t be forgiven was actually a sort of pride – that, somehow, in the history of the world, only I was beyond the omnipotent mercy of the King of the Universe. Thanks be to God, I was finally able to get over myself and allow the Divine Physician to do some laser surgery on my heart.
Today’s readings remind me anew: no one – absolutely no one – is ever too far gone for the loving mercy of our Heavenly Father. Not me, and not you.
There is no sin too great, no wound too deep, no transgression too severe – upon hearing our sincere cries for forgiveness and genuine attempts to amend our ways, He will cast our cares into the vast ocean of His Divine Mercy. It is always and forever available to us, just for the asking – thanks be to God!
Considering today’s Scripture readings, as wretched sinners, we are in good company.
In Moses’ day, the people had become, in a word, depraved. They worshipped golden calves, turned their backs on the God of their sworn covenant, and did who knows what else that grieved the heart of the Father. And yet, upon Moses’ intercessory cries for mercy, the LORD relented and did not destroy His people.
St. Paul sought to crush those following The Way – even unto death – until he was knocked off his horse and Jesus Himself called him out: “Saul, Saul – why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) In today’s Letter to Timothy, Paul recounts: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
In the extended version of today’s Gospel, we hear of the Prodigal Son, who famously dishonored his father, giving himself over to greed, lust, sloth and who knows what else. And yet, in the end, the son penitently returns to his Father’s house and is welcomed back with open arms.
Israel. Saul. The Prodigal Son. Me. You. None of these were – or are – beyond the reach of God’s saving hand.
In today’s Gospel, we are given several accounts that indicate how precious each of us is to our Heavenly Father, despite our missteps. When the one sheep of the 99 goes missing, the Shepherd rejoices when He finds the lost one, just as the woman with ten coins calls her neighbors to celebrate when the lost coin is recovered.
Each of us is important to God. Each of us matters. You matter to Him.
And so, while we may stray from time to time from this narrow path to holiness and Heaven, we can ask the Holy Spirit to be with us, to show us where and when we fail, and to give us humility to seek reconciliation. We can ask for the courage to rise above our sinfulness and be restored to the fullness of communion with our God.
Today, let us pray with the Psalmist these words as we return to His mercifully Sacred Heart, which burns with unquenchable love for each of us. Let us return to our Father Who loves us infinitely more than we can possibly imagine:
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Image source: Arno Smit via Unsplash