(Easter 2013: This homily was
given on March 31, 2013 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Easter 2013]
Some people think that Christians
are supposed to have “blind faith.”
But that’s not true.That’s a lie which is usually told by men and
women who want an excuse to avoid taking the claims of Christianity seriously.Perhaps they’re afraid that if they DO make
the effort to examine Jesus and his teaching with an open mind, they might
start to become believers themselves—which means they’d have to change the way
And that they don’t want to do!
The Catechism of the Catholic
Church states that we are to have good, solid, rational reasons for what we
believe about Jesus and his gospel (what the Catechism calls, “motives of
credibility”).And these “motives of
credibility” are to show that (and here I quote): “the assent of faith is ‘by
no means a blind impulse of the mind.’”(CCC, 156)
The event we celebrate at
Easter—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—is, of course, at the
very center of Christianity.As St. Paul
said in 1 Corinthians 15, “If Christ was not raised, your faith is
worthless.You are still in your sins,
and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest of the dead.If our hopes in Christ are limited to this
life only, we are the most pitiable of men.”
You can’t say it any more
directly or any more clearly than that!
So, why do you believe it?(I presume
that you do because you’re here this morning.)
What are your “motives of
credibility” when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection?
I can’t answer that question for
you, but I can answer that question for
me—and I will in this homily.This
is not an exhaustive list, but it is a list of some of the most important and
noteworthy reasons why I believe that Jesus Christ is risen, and alive—and with
The first one I’ll mention is the witness of the apostles.Their testimony that Jesus is alive and that
they personally saw him and talked with him and ate and drank with him after
Good Friday is very compelling!Now you
might say, “But, Fr. Ray, how do you know that they didn’t make it all up?How do you know that they didn’t steal the
body and then make all their claims about Jesus being alive?”
Well, I don’t know those things with absolute certainty.But I do know that, if you believe that the
apostles did in fact fabricate the story, then you’re left with an even more
difficult question: Why?Why would they
have done it?What could possibly have
been their motivation?It’s not as if
they stood to make a lot of money by telling the story!There we no big “book deals” to be had from
selling their story of the risen Jesus to a Jerusalem publishing house. There were no appearances on “60 Minutes” or
“The Tonight Show” that they could look forward to!Quite oppositely, they knew very well that if
they persisted in saying that Jesus of Nazareth had actually come back from the
grave, then they would probably end up like Jesus ended up—DEAD!
But that didn’t matter, did
it?They preached the resurrection of
Jesus with certitude and conviction, knowing full well that it would bring them
intense suffering and perhaps even martyrdom.
Chuck Colson, the converted
Watergate criminal, said it well: “People will give their lives for something
they believe to be true.They will never
give their lives for something they know to be false.”
In other words, had the apostles
known that the resurrection was a lie, they never would have died for it.
So the witness of the apostles is
one reason why I believe in the resurrection.A second reason (which you could say is a corollary to the first) is the change in the apostles themselves.Scripture is very clear about it: before the
resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit, these men were cowardly,
fearful, immature, and (to put it mildly) not very bright!But after they encountered the risen Christ—and
after he returned to heaven and sent them the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—they
were completely different: they were strong; they were fearless; they were
emotionally and spiritually mature; and they were incredibly insightful!
How do you explain the change?I
explain it by saying that Jesus made them that way, because he was risen and alive
and was operating in their lives!
Those who don’t believe in the
resurrection have to come up with another explanation.
A third reason I believe in the
resurrection is much more personal: it’s my
own experience!I believe that I’ve
experienced the presence of the risen Christ in my life many times and in many
ways—especially (though not exclusively) in the difficult moments.I’m sure many of you here could—and would—make
the very same claim.
The final reason I’ll share with
you today as to why I believe in the resurrection of Jesus is this: the experience of the Church.If Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead,
and if he’s the head and the Church is his body (as St. Paul tells us in First
Corinthians), then what happened to “the head” 2,000 years ago should also happen
to “the body” now!(In other words, if
Jesus really is alive and present in his Church, then the experience of the
historical Jesus 2,000 years ago should, in many ways, parallel the experience
of the Church today.)
And isn’t that what we see?Look, for example, at how the world responded
to the events that surrounded the resignation of Pope Benedict and the election
of Pope Francis.
C.S. Lewis said that Jesus, when
he walked the face of this earth, inspired three reactions in people: hatred,
terror and adoration.That is to say,
people were either passionately for him or passionately against him.Almost nobody was lukewarm when name “Jesus
of Nazareth” was mentioned in first century Palestine!
And so it is with the Catholic
Church today.Mention the Church in
casual conversation with co-workers or friends or family members, and most of
them will be either at one extreme or the other.Very few, if any, will have no opinion about
the Church and her teaching.
But that’s exactly what we should
expect! The Church inspires great love,
as Jesus did; and the Church inspires intense hatred, as Jesus did.
And the Church inspires great
interest, as Jesus did!I was in my car
when Pope Francis got elected, and every one of the stations that I normally
listen to had coverage of the event.Every
one of them!I couldn’t have found any
music even if I had wanted to!The next
day the headline of the Providence Journal read, “Humble Pastor as Pope.”It was in huge, bold print—right above a
picture of the Holy Father that took up half the page!
Gee, I thought the Catholic
Church was irrelevant, and didn’t matter!The people in the secular press and media are always telling us that the
Church is out of date, behind the times, and needs to change her teaching before
Really?Well, if that’s actually the case, then why
are they all so interested in what goes on in the Church?I don’t know about you, but personally I have
no interest whatsoever in things that don’t
matter—and I think most people feel the same way.So why are so many of those in the secular
world obsessed with us?
I believe it’s because they realize, subconsciously and intuitively,
that the Catholic Church speaks with the voice of the risen Christ!As secular journalist Kathleen Parker put it
in a column she wrote just before Pope Francis was elected, “Whatever one’s
personal opinion of Catholicism (I am not Catholic), the church remains a
bulwark against Western secularization and the growing culture of choice.”
Which, of course, is exactly what
Jesus would be if he were still walking on this planet among us!
Even the terrible scandals
involving bad priests in the last ten years testify to the connection between
the Church today and the historical Jesus who is still alive and with us. The John Jay College for Criminal Justice
estimated that about 4% of priests were engaged in this type of evil activity
during a 42-year period.Well, lest
we forget, out of the first twelve priests, one turned out to be an incredibly
evil man: a thief and a traitor.Mathematically
speaking, this means that Jesus lost 8% of his first group of priests (one out
of twelve is roughly 8%), so the failure of 4% today shouldn’t surprise us all
But neither should the great
sanctity and charity present in other members of the Church—priests and laity
alike!Is it a coincidence that the
Catholic Church is the largest private, charitable organization in the world
(as Bill O’Reilly reminded Jay Leno the other night on Leno’s TV program)?No, it’s not a coincidence—at least it’s not
a coincidence if you believe that the risen Christ lives and acts through the
Is it a coincidence that
committed, serious, devout Catholics like John Paul II and Mother Teresa of
Calcutta are among the best and most loving people in human history?Once again, it’s not a coincidence if you
believe that Jesus Christ is risen and alive and is living in the hearts of
holy people in his Church in our generation!
It’s good for us to gather today—as
we should every Sunday—to renew our faith in the Lord’s resurrection.But our world today demands more than simple
belief!It also demands holiness; and it
demands that we have reasons—good,
rational reasons—for believing the things that we say we believe.You’ve just heard some of mine.
(Good Friday 2013: This homily
was given on March 29, 2013 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, RI, by Fr. Raymond
Suriani.Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12;
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9.Also read the
Passion Narrative of St. John.)
Could God have done it some other
way?Could the Lord have reconciled the
world to himself and made salvation possible for the human race without the
horrible death of his Son on the cross?
The answer, believe it or not, is
“Yes, he could have!” As St. Augustine
said, “Other possible means were not lacking on God’s part, because all things
are equally subject to his power” (On the
Trinity 8:10).And, as St. Thomas
Aquinas put it, “It was possible for God to deliver mankind otherwise than by
the passion of Christ, because nothing
shall be impossible for God (cf. Luke 1:37).”
But, even though the Lord could have done it in some other
fashion, historically he did in fact choose the cross.And because the Father chose the passion and
death of his Son to be the means of our salvation, it was (as Jesus told the
disciples on the road to Emmaus) “necessary that the Messiah should suffer
these things and so enter into his glory.”
To which doubters and unbelievers
will immediately respond, “Well, then the god you Christians worship must be a
sadist!In fact, he’s so sadistic that
he not only gets his jollies by inflicting pain on others; he even gets some
kind of perverse enjoyment by inflicting pain and suffering on himself!”
To which we Christians say, “No!Our God is not a sadist; he’s a loving Father!And it’s precisely in the passion and death
of his Son that he reveals his Fatherly love to us most completely.Consequently, even though the Lord could have
redeemed us in some other way, it was most
fitting that he redeemed us through an event like the crucifixion—as
horrible as it was.”
I say it was “most fitting”
because God knows our hearts (since he created us!), and thus he understands
the questions that trouble us the most in this fallen world.And two of the most troublesome, nagging
questions that we face as human beings are these:
Does true justice exist?
And Does God really care?
The cross of Jesus Christ answers
both of these questions in a very clear and powerful way—which is why the
crucifixion was such a fitting way to bring about our salvation.
Take the first: Is there such a thing as true justice?Does it really exist?It can seem, at times, like it doesn’t.As we all know, we live in a world where so
very often the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper.We live in a world where some bad things
happen to some very good people, and some great things happen to some very bad
people!We live in a society where evils
like the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School occur all too frequently.And that can lead us to seriously question
not only the justice of God; it can also lead us to doubt the very existence of
Is it real—or is it just an
Well, the passion and death of
our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, make it clear that Almighty God takes
justice very seriously.St. Paul tells
us in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.”That text reminds us that even though true
justice is not always manifested in this world, it will be a reality in eternity!But the message of the cross is that Jesus
has taken the punishment that we justly
deserve for our sins and has, by his sacrifice, made it possible for us to
escape eternal punishment.As Isaiah
prophesied in tonight’s first reading: “It was our infirmities he bore, our
sufferings that he endured . . . he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for
our sins . . . the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”And because of all this, as our second
reading from Hebrews reminds us, “[Jesus] became the source of eternal
salvation for all who obey him.”
So yes, justice does exist with
God, but if we are united to Jesus (by baptism, faith and obedience), mercy can
triumph over justice for us.That’s the
good news!There’s a great line from the
diary of St. Faustina that says it perfectly.In one of her private revelations, Jesus reportedly said to her, “[The
person] who refuses to pass through the door of my mercy must pass through the
door of my justice.”
Ultimately it’s either one or the
other—for us and for every human person.
That should be all the motivation
we need to stay in the state of grace and go to confession often!
Which brings us to the second
troublesome issue that I mentioned earlier: Does
God really care?Does he care about the world?Does he care about me?
St. Paul says in Romans 5: “It is
rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely
possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die.It is precisely in this that God proves his
love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Lord knows how easily we can
doubt his love.It happens, normally,
when we’re going through a very difficult suffering in our life.In those times of trial and distress it can
seem like God is a million miles away.And so he chose the cross to redeem us (even though he didn’t have to!) so
that in those moments of questioning and trial we would be able to say, “Yes,
God does love me!Yes, he does care!Although I don’t always feel it in my
emotions, I believe it in the very depths of my heart; for God so loved the
world—he so loved me—that he gave his
only Son.God took the worst that this
world had to give—a bloody and horrible death—and he used that as the
instrument to give me life.”
I have a little plaque in my sitting
room that someone gave me several years ago, and on it are these words: “I
asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’And Jesus said, ‘This much—‘ and he stretched out his arms and died.”
Tonight we thank the Lord for his
glorious sacrifice, which gives hope to us and to every human person—especially
those who suffer great trials and great injustices in this life.
Let me close my homily now with a
little poem which was written by Heide Cozzolino, who’s the second grade
teacher at St. Pius X School.It’s
called, appropriately, “Good Friday”—and it’s a beautiful reminder of God’s
mercy and love, both of which we celebrate tonight as we contemplate the cross:
It stirs me to my stomach pit, oh God,
And wrenches all emotions in my chest—
To see your wooden cross held high—
And all that once was beautiful
Upon the purple altar mourns within the darkness,
Stripped of all adornment, cast in ghastly shades . . .
What did you see upon your walk
Of agony, oh Lord?
A blur of faces, and the ground leaping up
Too often, to slam against your face,
And no escape at any turn, no way to find respite?
I move my hands upon your cross,
My lips against its wood—
I know but little of it, this passion you endured,
The very first Holy Week was a
period of time when changes took
place in many different people: some of the changes were good, and some of them
One of the most disturbing
changes in the not-so-good category took place in the hearts and souls of certain
residents of Jerusalem.Think about it:
Some of the same men and women who were hailing Jesus as the Messiah on Palm
Sunday were screaming for his blood on Good Friday!
The changing tide of
public opinion: one day you’re the greatest person on earth, the next day you’re “public enemy number
(That’s why we should always try
to please God, and not human beings.)
And how about the change in Judas
Iscariot?That was another terrible
tragedy of Holy Week!This man went from
being a close, intimate friend of the divine Son of God, to the worst traitor
in the history of the world!
Peter also changed for the worse
during these few short days, when he denied three times that he even knew our
Lord—although, thankfully, he eventually changed back through repentance.
Actually all the apostles changed
for the worse, since, as St. Mark tells us, they all abandoned Jesus as soon as
our Lord was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane.
But, thanks be to God, many other
people changed for the better during the first Holy Week!The “Good Thief,” for example (who is only
mentioned in Luke’s version of the passion), changed radically as he hung next
to Jesus on Good Friday.He made a 180
degree turnaround in his heart, and so he joined our Lord that day in Paradise!
(All of which shows that deathbed
conversions can and do happen!Yes—they
might be rare, but they certainly are possible.)
The Roman centurion who stood at
the foot of the cross changed for the better: he became a believer—a man of
faith—after he saw the way that Jesus died.
Joseph of Arimathea changed in a
positive way by becoming an openly-committed
disciple of Jesus when he came forth to claim our Lord’s body for burial, having
been a secret disciple of Jesus before that.
Even our Blessed Mother underwent
a kind of change from Palm Sunday to Good Friday.She went from being “the rejoicing Mother” of
the Messiah as she watched her Son enter Jerusalem in triumph, to “the
sorrowful Mother” of the Savior as she stood at the foot of his cross—in the
process becoming a role model for us as we struggle to deal with our daily
I share these thoughts with you
today in this brief homily to encourage us all to make some time for the Lord
during this Holy Week—because if we
do that we also have the opportunity to change for the better!This Holy Week is like the first one in that
sense: it provides an opportunity for us to change our lives in a positive
way!But for that to happen, we need to
enter into it by our active participation.
Let me conclude now by sharing
with you this week’s schedule of events here at St. Pius.When you go home, I highly encourage you to
put at least some of these events on your calendars:
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
we will have morning Mass as usual at 7am; on Thursday, Friday and Saturday we
will have morning prayer at the normal Mass times.The Easter Triduum begins with the Mass of
the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening at 7pm, followed by adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament in the church hall until 11pm (a time for us to remember the
Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane).On Friday we will have Stations of the Cross twice: once outside at noon
(specifically designed for young people and families); then, at 3pm, here in
church.The celebration of the Lord’s
Passion will take place on Friday evening at 7; and the first Mass of
Easter—the glorious celebration of the Easter Vigil—will be held at 7:30pm on
Please note: there will be no 5pm
Mass next Saturday!The normal time for our
vigil Mass is changed (as hopefully we
will be—for the better!—when this Holy Week is over).
After you see a movie that’s
based on a novel, certain people will say to you, “Oh yes, the movie was good—I
saw it, too—but you should definitely read the book, because the book is much
And they’re usually right.
Well, based on what I’ve said in
past homilies, you know that I absolutely love Les Miserables, the movie that
came out this past Christmas, and which won 3 Oscars a few weeks ago.
I love it almost as much as I
love the musical version of the story, which I have been blessed to see several
Both the film and the musical, of
course, are based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name.
Well, given the fact that in so
many cases the book is truly better than the movie, I made the decision
recently to get Les Mis for my Kindle, and read it.
And I did.Well, at least I’ve begun to read it.I’ve only begun
because Les Miserables is not what you would call, “a quick read”!It’s almost 1,500 pages long, small
print!Victor Hugo was obviously a man
who LOVED to write—and write—and write!What most people would say in 10 words, he says in 110 words—or more!
All I can say is: Be glad you
have me for your pastor and not him!If
he were your priest, you’d be here for 3 hours every Sunday (or Saturday night
as the case might be).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m
really enjoying the book so far (I’m about a third of the way through it).I just wish some of his descriptions of
things were shorter and a little less detailed.
With one very notable exception,
namely, his account of Jean Valjean’s battle with his conscience—the battle he
had at a crucial point after his conversion.True to form, Hugo goes on describing the details of this battle—this
internal struggle of Jean Valjean—for many, many pages.
But in this case I’m glad he did
that, because the length of the description makes a very important point.The point is that sometimes doing the right
thing isn’t easy—it’s a big struggle—even if your conscience is guiding you
properly and helping you to see what you should
Let me now give you a brief
synopsis of what Valjean was struggling with . . .
At the beginning of the story
(which takes place in early 19th century France) Valjean is paroled,
after spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.He comes out of prison a bitter man, but he
experiences a genuine conversion with the help of a saintly bishop.He then breaks his parole, assumes a new
identity, and begins to live a very holy, charitable life.He moves to another town where nobody knows
him; he starts a business that provides jobs for many needy people there, and is
incredibly generous with his money.In
fact, he’s eventually elected mayor because people love him so much.
But then one day he hears that a
man called “Jean Valjean”—an ex-convict who broke his parole many years
earlier—is set to go on trial in a distant city the following day.Valjean, of course, knows that this is a case
of mistaken identity: he knows that he’s
the guy they’re looking for!This man
they have in custody is innocent.
But what should he do?If he goes to the court and reveals himself as
the real Jean Valjean, he’ll probably be arrested immediately and sent back to
the prison and the galleys for the rest of his life; but if he doesn’t go, he
allows an innocent man to be convicted and to suffer punishment unjustly (life
imprisonment and perhaps even death!).In the musical, his struggle is summed up in one line.Valjean sings, “If I speak, I am condemned;
[but] if I stay silent, I am damned.”
Well, in the novel (as I said a
few moments ago), the struggle is recounted over many, many pages—because it
was so deep and so intense.Valjean, for
example, paces the floor the whole night before the trial, going back and forth
in his thoughts.Deep down inside knows
that he should go and reveal himself
to the court, but another voice in his head is giving him all the reasons he
should just stay at home and let the other guy get condemned: The people of this town need me; they count
on my leadership.Children look up to
me; how can I let them down?I’m
providing for the families of the people who work in my factory; I’m helping
poor souls who will probably die without all my charitable gifts.
Even after he decides to go to
the courthouse, he struggles; even as he enters the courtroom itself, the
battle rages on inside him.
Conscience.Jean Valjean had formed his well—that’s why
he knew the right thing to do.But a conscience needs to be followed after it’s formed!
And that’s where it can be very
difficult.Just ask Jean Valjean.
I usually don’t give the enemies
of Jesus in the gospels credit for much, but I will say something positive today about the scribes and the Pharisees
that we hear about in this story of the woman caught in the act of
adultery.These men had not formed their
consciences as well as Jean Valjean had formed his, but they had formed them
well enough to recognize some of their sins—perhaps because Jesus was writing them
in the sand!Now they could have ignored
what their consciences were telling them and gone on to stone the woman
anyway!But, to their credit, they all
did listen to their consciences—and to the challenge of Jesus—and they walked
I mention this today because many
Catholics and other Christians in the modern world use “conscience” as an
excuse for doing what they feel like doing or what they want to do, rather than
seeing it as a summons to do what they ought
“Well, my conscience tells me
that _________ is ok.”(Fill in that
blank with any sin: lying, cheating on my taxes, artificial contraception,
abortion, being unfaithful to my spouse, holding a grudge, etc.)
“My conscience tells me it’s okay
to do this.”
Well, it’s important for us to
remember that our consciences will guide us properly ONLY if they are formed properly!Jean Valjean’s conscience was telling him,
“It’s wrong for you to allow that innocent man to go to jail for the rest of
his life!” because Valjean had formed his conscience based on the Ten
Commandments and the Golden Rule.His
conscience was guiding him properly because it was formed properly.
The consciences of the scribes
and Pharisees were telling them, “You’d better not throw any stones at this
woman,” because their consciences had been formed properly to the point where these
men were at least able to recognize some of their own sins.They were blind, unfortunately, to their
hatred of Jesus (which was also a sin—a very big sin!), but they were clear
about some other things.
I encourage you to read, in the
near future, what the Catechism teaches about conscience, since there’s so much
confusion and misinformation out there concerning this subject.It all begins in paragraph 1776 (which should
be easy to remember, since that’s year the Declaration of Independence was
I’ll quote just a few of the more
important lines to you here:
From paragraph 1778: Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person
recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to
perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.
paragraph 1799:Faced with a
moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance
with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment
that departs from them.
From paragraph 1783: Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A
well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.
From paragraph 1785:In the formation
of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,we
must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.(That basically means that we are to
form our consciences based on objective truth, and not on our personal
feelings or ideas!)
And, finally, from paragraph 1784: The education of the conscience is a
Let me conclude now with a final
word on Jean Valjean, since I left him a few moments ago in the midst of a terrible
He did the right thing!That’s the bottom line: He did the right thing.
He went to the courthouse and
revealed himself to be the real Jean Valjean.
“But, Fr. Ray, he obviously
didn’t stay in jail, because the story continued—for about 1,200 more pages!So what happened?”
That, I won’t tell you.To find out, you’ll have to read the book.
Or, if you don’t have either the
time or the desire to read a 1,500 page novel, just go to see the Oscar winning
movie starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.That will only take 2 ½ hours of your time, but, I guarantee you, it
will be 2 ½ hours well-spent!
On March 15, we were blessed to have Frank Kelly with us for a special Mass, talk, and healing service. Frank shared his story of how the Lord spared his life when he was electrocuted at work, and how God called him to his present ministry of healing and evangelization.
Click on the links below to listen to Frank's witness talk, and to the homily I gave at the Mass that evening.
Well that’s certainly the way it
was for the prodigal son.This boy
learned a lot—about himself, about his family, and about life in general—through
the experiences that he had between the time he left home with his inheritance
and the time he returned home without it.
learned, first of all, that no sins are unforgivable!And that was a crucial lesson for him to
learn, because I don’t think he believed his sins could be forgiven!Now that’s somewhat understandable, because
in leaving as he did, he knew that he had decisively cut himself off from his
father and from his family.Notice that
the passage says that this boy took “all
his belongings.”He took them all
because he never intended to go back!And that’s why his dad said he was “dead”.He wasn’t physically dead; he was spiritually dead!
In theological terms, he had
committed a mortal sin. (Actually, from
the way the story is told, it seems that he had committed a number of mortal
sins!)Remember what a mortal sin is: it’s
one that cuts us off from God the Father and from the sanctifying grace that
comes to us through our spiritual family, the Church.Or, as the Catechism puts it: “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation
of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his
beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.”(CCC, 1855)
The prodigal son didn’t think he
could be forgiven for his many mortal sins; he just hoped that he could be
“tolerated” by his father for what he had done.But he soon learned that his father’s mercy was greater than all the
evils he had committed.
Hopefully we learn that very same
lesson every time we go to Confession.On that note, when was the last time you went?Thankfully, there’s still time to go during
this season of Lent.
It’s important to mention
Confession in this context because another
thing the prodigal son learned by experience was that reconciliation with his
dad wasn’t automatic.It wasn’t
something that was “just going to happen”.After breaking his relationship with his
father, he realized that he needed to do
something to repair the damage: specifically, he needed to go to his dad and verbally
acknowledge his guilt—which he did: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and
Well that’s precisely what we do
in Confession, is it not?We go to our
heavenly Father, through the priest, and verbally acknowledge the evil we have
done, as well as the good we have failed to do (in other words, our sins of commission and our sins of omission).
In the experience of going to his
dad and verbalizing his guilt, the prodigal son learned yet another lesson: He learned that his father was looking for a
reason not to give him what he
deserved!This boy knew he
deserved punishment—severe punishment; he knew that he deserved to be
permanently excluded from the family (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and
against you.I no longer deserve to be
called your son.”)
The father, thankfully, ignored
that last remark and welcomed his wayward son home.
By showing sincere repentance and
acknowledging his sin, the prodigal son gave his dad a reason—a great reason—not to give him what he deserved.
Which, as we heard a few moments
ago, greatly upset his older brother!I
find it very interesting, the father in this story (who obviously represents
God the Father) looks for a reason not
to give his prodigal son what he deserves, whereas it’s pretty clear that the
older boy wants to see his prodigal brother get exactly what he deserves (and perhaps a little extra as well!).
That fact says a lot about the
difference between God and us.I think
most people, in similar circumstances, would feel like that older son felt.
In addition to all the lessons he
learned about repentance, mercy and forgiveness, the prodigal son also learned
a few other things.For example, he
learned, through his experience, that
sometimes suffering can be a blessing in disguise!Think about it: if he had not spent all that time with Porky Pig
and his friends in that filthy pig sty, he probably would never have
re-established his relationship with his dad!In all likelihood, the two would have remained disconnected for the rest
of their lives.But his suffering woke
him up, and motivated him to go back to his father in a spirit of sincere
repentance.And that was a great
I encourage you to try to think
of that the next time you experience a terrible suffering in your life: it can be the source of some very special
PRODIGAL SON also learned to be grateful.He learned to be grateful for the many
blessings he had enjoyed in his father’s house—blessings that he had obviously
taken for granted earlier in his life.In fact, that’s one of the reasons he left his dad in the first place: he
didn’t realize he had it so good!
SO OBVIOUSLY HE ALSO LEARNED THE
IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY; HE LEARNED THAT PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS; HE
LEARNED THAT HE COULD NOW CHANGE HIS
LIFE AND BECOME A HOLY AND MERCIFUL PERSON (he learned that from the great example
of his dad); AND HE LEARNED ABOUT THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF PRIDE AND ANGER (he
received that lesson, unfortunately, from the very bad example of his older
Of course, it’s one thing to
learn all this from your past experience; it’s quite another thing to apply it
in the present moment for the sake of your future!I pray today that the prodigal son did both:
that he learned these lessons by his experience of sin and repentance, and that
he then allowed these lessons to have a positive impact on him for the rest of
If he did, then he certainly
became a saint—and in that he becomes a great example for all of us to try to follow.