Just one quick riddle. What do you call shoes made out of banana peels? Slippers.
I want to begin by thanking Abraham Lincoln and St. Francis de Sales for this homily. As you will see, I have three long quotes from Lincoln and St. Francis to share with you.
I like today’s gospel, the parable of the prodigal son. As you may have heard me say in the past, I refer to this parable when I talk to second graders about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I tell them 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.” Three syllables. Or the sacrament of “Penance.” Two syllables. But I like one-syllable words. So I refer to this great sacrament of Reconciliation as the sacrament of “God’s hug.” And that comes from today’s gospel. What does the Father do when the son returns? The father gives him a great big hug. And Jesus says, “That’s my Father. That’s how my Father loves.”
One of my favorite quotes about forgiveness is from the late columnist, Ann Landers. She said, “One of the secrets of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everyone everything every night before you go to bed”.
Whether it is forgiving a parent, a child, a sibling, our boss, a teacher, or forgiving a drunk driver or a terrorist, “forgive everyone, everything every night before you go to bed.”
“Everyone” includes that person in the mirror, our self. Some people go around for years carrying a heavy burden of guilt and remorse. They may forgive others, but they don’t know how to be understanding and merciful to themselves.
One person who had trouble forgiving himself was Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln reflected, "I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself. For many years, my greatest enemy has been myself. Every mistake, every miscalculation, every stumble I made has been replayed again and again in my mind. Every broken promise, every day wasted, every goal not reached has compounded the disgust I feel for the lack of achievement in my life.
By forgiving myself, I erase the doubts, fears, and frustration that have kept my past in the present. From this day forward, my history will cease to control my destiny.”
We all have regrets. We remember the times when we did something stupid or said something foolish. We remember the times when we didn’t keep a promise, when we didn’t tell the truth, or when we spoke hurtful words.
We recall the times when we set a bad example, when we let others down, or when we didn’t reach out to help someone in need. We recall the times that we broke God’s laws.
All of us need to look down at our feet of clay, admit that we are human and that we are not always at our best. At the core, we are very beautiful, made in the “image and likeness of God.” But on the edges sometimes we are imperfect. The only way imperfect people can achieve inner peace is to be kind and forgiving to themselves.
St. Francis de Sales said, “Have patience with all things but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being.”
He continued,“You’re a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that. Unconditional self-acceptance is the core of a peaceful mind.”
So we need to picture our self today as both the father andthe first son in today’s reading. Let us hug our self with forgiveness. Once we forgive ourselves, we can move on to the business of forgiving others.
What gets in the way of forgiveness? Often it is anger.
Again to quote Lincoln,“Many are the times when I have seethed in anger at a word or deed thrown into my life by an unthinking or uncaring person. I have wasted valuable hours imagining revenge or confusion. … I will now and forevermore silently offer my forgiveness… By the act of forgiving, I am no longer consumed by unproductive thoughts. I give up my bitterness. I am content in my soul and effective again with my fellow man.”
When people are forgiven, they feel grateful. Forgiveness is not something we earn, or deserve. It is given out of love. So we are grateful.
Let it be said that Assumption parish is a place where forgiveness happens. Assumption is a place where people are grateful. Assumption is the place where the words and example of Jesus lead the way.