Did you hear about the wife who had been bugging her husband to buy her a new sports car? He had a deaf ear. However, when Valentine’s Day came and went and he forgot to get her a present, she felt she had an opportunity.
“Dear,”she said, “you didn’t get me a gift for Valentine’s Day?”
“What would you like?”he asked.
“How about something in the driveway tomorrow, something that goes from 0 to 200 in six seconds?”
The husband thinks, “Hmmm… 0 to 200 in six seconds.”
The next morning he gets us early to go to work and leaves a gift-wrapped box in the driveway.
When the wife wakes us, she looks out and sees the box. Puzzled, she goes out, opens the box, and there it is, -- a bathroom scale.
…..The husband hasn’t been seen since.
We just heard the Beatitudes as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Luke has four Beatitudes. Matthew’s gospel has eight. I would like to skip over to Matthew’s eight and choose one of his for my homily. I want to speak about the beatitude, “Blessed are the Merciful.” I want to speak about it because yesterday our second graders made their First Sacrament of Reconciliation. So reconciliation is in the air this weekend.
1) On Friday I spoke to the children in their classroom. I would like to share with you some of what I said. The first thing I told the children is that I don’t like big words. And “Reconciliation” is a big word. Six syllables. Sometimes we call this great sacrament the sacrament of “Confession.” That’s three syllables. We also call it the sacrament of “Penance.” Two syllables. But I like one-syllable words. So I call this great sacrament the sacrament of Gods “Hug.”
Now that ‘s not original with me. Jesus uses that image. Remember the story in the gospel about the prodigal son who left home, squandered his inheritance, made a mess of his life, and embarrassed his family. He finally repented and decided to go back home and tell his father he was sorry. Before he even got the words out his father ran up to him and gave him a great big hug. Jesus says, “That’s my father. That’s how my father loves you.” Reconciliation, -- a hug from God.
2) Now there are two very important things we should do before going to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. The first thing is to forgive anyone who has hurt us in any way. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Before we ask God for forgiveness, we first have to forgive anyone who has hurt us.
The late author, Ann Landers, once said, “The secret of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everyone, everything, every night before you go to be.” It is also the secret of a life of inner peace.
Did you know that there was a convert on Calvary? The Centurion. He was one of the guys that helped kill Jesus. But when it was all over, the centurion proclaimed, “Surely this was the son of God” (Mark 15:39). The centurion had seen many men die on a cross. What he had never seen was someone in his moment of agony, saying, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34). Seeing the forgiving heart of Jesus, the centurion became a believer. When people see us, the followers of Jesus forgive one another, they are led to know who our God is and what he is like.
Forgiving one another is not only the way to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is also the way to prepare for Mass. Jesus told us, “When you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, first, go your way and be reconciled, and then come and offer your gift”(Matthew 5:23-24).
That means we need to use two sentences often. “I am sorry,” and “I forgive you.” That’s how imperfect people live together in a family, in a community. By being patient and forgiving. If we all did that, I think we would have less violence, terrorism, and war.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Our God is the strongest of all.
3) The second thing we do before receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation is examine our conscience. Now conscience tells us two things: what’s right and what’s wrong. So before we start reflecting on what we did wrong, I suggest we first reflect on some of the things we did right. Let’s see… With the kids, I helped them reflect: “I helped my mother with some chores, I did my homework, I let others play with my toys, I was kind, I told the truth…” We are able to do good things because God dwells within us and helps us live good lives. So we give thanks to God for all the good in our lives. Then we look at our sins… “I was disobedient to my parents, I stole something, I called someone bad names…”
These are the things we tell the priest when we go to confession. God takes away our sins and gives us the grace to do more and more good things.
4) The final thing for us to do comes after the sacrament is over. And that is gratitude. Forgiveness is a gift. We don’t deserve it. We can’t buy it. It is given to us from God out of love. And whenever we receive a gift we say, “Thanks.”
Usually, at the end of a confession, I recite a sentence from Psalm 107, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” The response is, “For his love endures forever.” However, it is fine to just say, “Amen.” Yes, thank you, God. We are very grateful, grateful for your hug.