Word To Life
Sunday Scripture Readings, March 18, 2012
By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service
March 18, Fourth Sunday of Lent
Cycle B. Readings:
1) 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
2) Ephesians 2:4-10
Gospel: John 3:14-21
For many years I taught a class at church for teens who had been baptized but had missed the other sacraments. One aspect of the class that I liked most was the huge variety of families that found themselves in need of returning to the sacraments. The stories of how these families ended up at our church were often inspiring and heart-wrenching.
A challenge for the class was that many students had spotty religious education, so big concepts such as the Trinity and the Incarnation could be tough for them to even begin to understand, let alone embrace with an act of faith. I remember the struggles when it was time for them to make their first reconciliation. The look of sheer horror on their faces when they found out what they were required to do was priceless.
Of course, we would go over the theology of the sacrament and even would do some role-playing to get the young people comfortable with the process, but as the big day approached, the nerves got pretty frazzled. Every year there was at least one person completely terrified of saying all his or her sins out loud. But a lot of counseling and encouraging ensued, and the next thing you knew they were off to the confessional.
Then came one of the best moments of the entire year: the looks on their faces when they emerged from that encounter with the grace of God, followed by the bubbling over of emotions of relief and joy.
It was exactly these kinds of moments that caused the Father to send his Son to earth. As St. Paul in this Sunday's second reading succinctly put it, "God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ."
This is why each of us, when we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, experiences the lifting of a weight, a freeing in our soul. Our sin is already paid for; all we need to do is repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness. God is indeed rich in mercy, a mercy he freely gives, longs to give and in a very real way is dying to give.
What do you remember about your first reconciliation? What has your experience of the sacrament been like since then?
SCRIPTURE TO BE ILLUSTRATED:
"God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
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