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Today is episode 68: Be Reconciled
Well, hello friends. As we take this turn into the last bit of Lent toward Holy Week, many of us are thinking about the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or what we used to call “going to confession” as a preparation for Easter. Today, I want to take a look at reconciliation – yes, the sacrament, but also a broader view of what we’re actually looking for when we seek reconciliation, the factors that are required to become reconciled, and how we can find reconciliation not only with God, but with others, and very importantly, within ourselves.
If you were to represent reconciliation graphically, like with a picture in your mind’s eye, what would that look like, friend? Let’s think about that for a minute.
Would it be like two lines that start off together, then diverge at sort of an angle over time, but then come together once again? Or is it a picture of two people reuniting? Or a confessional booth or rosary beads, a prayers of penance, something like that? Or do you see a picture of a story like the Prodigal Son? Does the word reconciliation bring to your mind issues of race, multiculturalism, or hard issues between married people or families, like a longed-for restoration of relationship? Or does something come to your mind that looks more like a financial balance sheet, a legislative process, or like two disparate groups coming together? And does all of that look like justice to you, or do you picture a kind of Venn diagram that represents some or all of these ideas? I wonder.
I think it’s fair to say that all of us have experienced painful separations, disagreements, misunderstandings, or even real chasms of injustice that we prayed and hoped would find understanding, resolution, compromise, fairness, or settlement. We humans tend to want to see a balance sheet that is both equal and fair in our relationships, but if that’s the definition we’re looking for, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced true reconciliation in the earthly sense. We humans tend to require grace, both with each other and with God, and one thing you can say about grace is that it is not fair.
I wonder if you have relationships today that are broken. I do, and there’s maybe nothing more painful than the distance between people, the varied understandings that just won’t come together. I have some broken relationships that I legitimately do not know why they are broken, some that I do know the reason, and some that, sadly, I believe will probably stay broken for the long haul, for lots of reasons. Sometimes, we must accept that true reconciliation between humans is just not possible on this side of Heaven, that even hours of hours of debate, listening, adjustments, argument, or negotiation would never produce a healed relationship in the end, much as we would want it to. In our divided culture, we have certainly learned that a homogenization of viewpoints or people is not only not possible, but probably should not even be our goal. As New Zealand Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Patrick Dodson said in a 1996 address,
“The river is the river and the sea is the sea.
Salt water and fresh, two separate domains.
Each has its own complex patterns, origins, stories.
Even though they come together, they will always exist in their own right.
My hopes for reconciliation are like that.”
Mr. Dobson is advocating here for fairness for aboriginal groups in New Zealand, but I find his words reflect the hopes of lots of kinds of reconciliation, don’t you?
Sometimes the act of reconciliation we most need is within ourselves. We have to come to accept something that it is not as we would have it, reconcile ourselves to a fact or a truth we’ve wrestled with, sometimes over a span of many years. That person is who they are, this situation unfolded the way it did, still, I am worthy, I am enough, I am seen even if only by God. That is one way of reconciliation that really does lead to peace, even if it is quite a lot of work, I know, friend.
Between people or groups, reconciliation can be a much longer and more complicated road, and we may never see the resolution we long for. There’s an old Chinese saying, “The beginning of wisdom is to call something by its correct name,” and there may be subjects about which another person or group will never name something in the way we do. Truth and reconciliation processes, whether between people, groups, religions, or countries, can never come to full realization without the truth. And that’s why these processes, like the one this week in which Pope Francis both named and apologized for the Church’s role in the abuse of indigenous people in Canada’s residential schools is so important. I’ll link to more about that in the show notes for you.
Naming the truth is essential as we consider reconciliation within ourselves, with others, and with God. Back when we were considering a picture that might represent reconciliation, I wonder if any of us thought of that old drawing of a chasm between humanity and God where the Cross of Jesus provides a sort of bridge between us? I’ll link it for you in the show notes if you’ve not seen it before, but for those of us that count ‘making a good confession’ as part of our Lenten experience, the truth is, of course, essential. We have to be honest about ourselves and our sin, yes, but also honest about the nature of the reconciliation that God offers to us. In the Book of Romans, it says,
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The wellspring of forgiveness and grace that God offers us is unlimited and forward-seeking and it is not fair. And this is illustrated so beautifully in the story of the Prodigal Son. As you may know, the word ‘prodigal’ means ‘generous’, ‘lavish’, ‘over the top’. What is prodigal in this story is the love and compassion of the Dad, not the sin of the younger son or the judgment of the elder son. As our friend, Fr. Joe Callahan used to say, the story really ought to be called, “The Prodigal Father and His Sons.”
As the story says,
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Well, you and I – we are a long way off, friends. None of us is even close to deserving the celebration that God plans for us, not a clergy member or your sweet grandmother, or anyone you can think of now that is the most holy person you know, nope, not one of us. So, as we consider maybe trying confession again this year, let’s remember the importance of the truth, not only of our own spiritual state that we may come to understand in prayer or a good examination of conscience, but in the truth of the nature of how God loves us. It’s way bigger than any sin we could commit, I promise you, friend.
When it comes to practical considerations around the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it must be acknowledged that we may have had wonderful experiences in our lifetimes, but also confusing or painful ones. Sometimes in these intimate encounters, God does speak clearly and lovingly through a priest and at other times, a priest does not represent Jesus well at all, I know. I’ve seen people line up for hours to have a confession heard by one particularly anointed priest, and I’ve both experienced and heard difficult stories about many others. Friend, please know that you have the agency to choose where and how you participate in this sacrament if you choose to do so, but if you do go again this year, friends, start with the truth as the younger son did in this story, and then expect an open embrace from God who, while you were a long way off, ran toward you. That’s my deepest prayer for you today.
Years back, I remember one of my kids bouncing out of the sacrament with a huge smile on their face. They said, “I feel like I must weigh about 78 pounds!”. Friend, the day before, they had clocked in at the doctor’s office at 92. Well, this kind of joyful unburdening is what I hope for you, because God is always running toward us, always wanting to relieve us of the heavy things we carry, and there is nothing we can do to stop the lavish nature of His kindness toward us, literally nothing. When it comes to us and God, that is the very unfair math and the heart of the grace of reconciliation. And I pray that for you and for me this Lent, that we would know it in the depth of ourselves and experience it as the truth.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks for sharing, rating, reviewing, and subscribing to this podcast as all of that is helpful for more people to find us and I truly appreciate that, so thanks. If you’d like to support Raised Catholic financially by throwing a few bucks my way, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. For now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, we know that true reconciliation, whether it be with you, with others or within ourselves, is only possible by grace. Thank you for being the very source and engine of grace that we need to keep moving forward in our lives. I pray for each one listening here, that if they choose to experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent, that you would meet them there in the loving countenance of a good priest and that you would use this encounter for our good. For us and our dear ones, in our relationships and within our very selves, we pray in Jesus’s name, amen.
Well, thanks so much for listening today, friends, and I’ll see you next time.
This week, we’re talking all about reconciliation, yes the sacrament, but also what it is to be reconciled with others, with a reality or truth, and within ourselves. I hope this episode is a blessing to you as we turn the corner toward Holy Week.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com!
Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow! Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Update on the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada surrounding the Church’s role in the abuse of indigenous children
2. Old graphic concept of how Jesus acts as the bridge between humanity and God the Father
4. Podcast: The Examen with Father James Martin
5. Video: Come As You Are (Cover), by Sarah Reeves
6. Video: Lady Bird (film ending)
7. Song: Softly and Tenderly, by Audrey Assad
8. Confession basics from Catholics Come Home
9. Song: Speechless, by Steven Curtis Chapman
10. Video: How He Loves Us (Cover), by Sarah Reeves