Monday, September 13, 2010

Rejoicing over the repentant sinner

This past Sunday, our wonderfully brilliant pastor delivered a homily in the tradition of St. Ambrose. I am currently reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, so this quote comes to me readily. St. Augustine writes about St. Ambrose, “By his eloquent sermons in those days he zealously provided your people with the fat of your wheat, the gladness of your oil, and the sobering intoxication of your wine.” Beautiful.

Father’s homily focused on the Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son. He painted the picture of what the Jewish audience would have been thinking about Jesus’ story, that it would have been shocking and very uncomfortable for them to hear about a son whose father would have welcomed him after such disgrace and outright disrespect. Similarly, the woman searching for what would have been the equivalent of a penny and the shepherd leaving behind his sheep to search for the lost one are stories that would have seemed senseless, and upon reflection even now, they still transcend human understanding.

The point was that God’s love for us is unbelievable, incomprehensible to the human mind. We think that there should be some sort of earthly justice that responds in kind to the evil deeds done by another person (particularly if they are done to us). Not so, with the superabundant love of God. The repentant sinner is welcomed with a loving embrace.

To conclude his homily, Father offered to us a challenge for our modern time. How would we respond if one of the 9/11 terrorists repented and was welcomed into Heaven after having successfully plotted such a heinous crime? Would we be able to humbly rejoice in the victory over sin and death in that terrorist’s soul, or would we be so proudly bitter about the injustice of a sinner’s consequence?


  1. Ooh, that's a very tough question! I've heard the same question asked about Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer. I guess I'm grateful that I don't know any of them personally and their crimes didn't affect me personally, because I'm sure that would have made a difficult question even harder!

    It's so nice to hear that you have a brilliant pastor! They seem to be hard to come by these days. Love the St. Augustine quote!

  2. Happy to see you're reading Confessions. If you love his thoughts, as I do, you probably will also like a book which recently came out of his "Essential Sermons." They make for simple daily readings, and his sermon style reminds me of Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I can almost see his finger pointing to the pews as he minces no words.