St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Building up Community ĖThe Prodigal Son -Homily March 6, 2016

Building up Community ĖThe Prodigal Son†††††††††††††††††††††††† -Homily March 6, 2016

 

Why did the older son not welcome his brother? He was angry with his father. He considered himself better than his brother. He did not feel the need of forgiveness. He was interested in the things of his father, but he did not love him. If he had loved his father, he would have understood his joy, and he would have shared that joy. Lack of communion with the father makes impossible the communion with his brother. Lack of love of God makes impossible a true love of our brothers and sisters.

 

Imagine the prodigal son now. Do you imagine him having a problem with the presence of anyone in the house? Do you imagine him saying: ďWhat is this guy doing here? Who invited you?Ē or something like that? He was the one who should not have been there! He knew he had been forgiven, he knew that his father wanted to share the joy of his return with everyone, and he was very happy about that.

 

The Catholic Church is that party. It is the party of those who have been forgiven. The reason we are brothers and sisters is because we have one Father. The way to be good brothers and sisters is to love our Father. If there is no communion with the Father in our hearts, we are not true brothers and sisters. We may be good human friends, but we are not children of the Father in heaven. The reason we welcome everyone is that we ourselves have been forgiven. We know that our Father wants to share that forgiveness with everyone. We are happy about that because we love our Father. He is so good, that he wants everybody to share his friendship and love.

 

The reason I am saying this is the following: if we want to ďbuild up community,Ē as they say, in a church, we have to understand first what kind of community we want: the Church is the family of God, Our Father in Heaven. The priest is not your father, it is God. But the priest is someone God put in our midst to establish and restore our communion with the Father. The priest is important, but he is not the centre. The priest is essential in a parish, but as an instrument. An instrument for you to use to be in communion with your Father. How do you become a child of God? By baptism, usually through the priest. How do you enter into communion with your God, how do you welcome him in your heart, how do you give yourself to him? By holy Communion. How do you say sorry to God for having offended him, how do you restore your relationship with him, broken by sin? Through Reconciliation. The community of the church is built up through the sacraments. The family of God keeps together by the sacraments, and grows by the sacraments. The sacraments are the way we enter into communion with God. The sacraments make us grow in the love of our Father. And because of that, they make us grow in our love for our brothers and sisters.

 

This is not to say that in order to attract people we have just to pray. We should do many things, and ideas are welcome. But there is one thing that we must do first, and if we donít do that one, our reaching out is empty and sterile: the first is to strengthen our own communion with God through the sacraments. The first thing is to say sorry to our Father for our own sins in reconciliation, beginning with the pastor, and then I will be able to share the joy of Godís forgiveness with others. I donít have to fake a welcoming attitude when I myself feel welcomed by God. I am forgiven, I am happy about that: welcome everyone! God was good to me; he will be good to you too. Welcome to St. Michaelís, the party of the prodigal sons and daughters, where God is our Father. Welcome to St. Michaelís, the hospital of sinners. We are happy here, because we are saved, because God loved us and forgave us, and will still forgive us again if we repent.

 

That is the joy of the Gospel!! It is not the joy of a guitar, but the joy of a harp, of the heavenly lyre, of the trumpet of the angel. It is a joy that you cannot find anywhere else. And we, at this church, are responsible to offer that joy. We donít have drums here, and we donít need them. We donít have fancy lights or shows, and we donít need them either. But we have Jesus in the tabernacle, and his forgiveness in the confessional. The world is full of drums and shows and light and all those things, but how are we doing without God? God loves you, come back to him: this is the message of the Church. God loves you, and this is all you will get here at St. Michaelís. This is what should give meaning to all the things we do here, and to our reaching out and welcoming other people: nothing else, nothing less than the love of God. This is the only thing that can make you leap for joy, an eternal joy that no suffering can take away. The love of a God who died for you on the Cross on Good Friday, and came to life again three days later to give you hope, the certain hope of perfect happiness with him after death.

 

The Bishop in his pastoral letter for the year of mercy mentions the sacrament of reconciliation several times. Pope Francis does the same: there is a picture of him kneeling and making his confession with another priest. The II Vatican Council speaks also several times about confession. I spare you the quotations but I invite you all to renew our appreciation for the sacrament of forgiveness. Even when you donít have any new sin, it is beautiful to hear again that the Lord forgives you for everything you may have done in the past. Even if you donít have big sins, you may still want to say sorry to God. We are sorry even when we do little things to our friends. May God give us the joy of his forgiveness.ĖFr. Andrew