Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Rejoicing in heaven"

A woman who lived near the parish died suddenly at the age of 49. I was especially saddened when I got the call about her death from the funeral home because the next of kin is her 17 year old daughter. When I offered the vigil prayers at the viewing, I asked the many friends and family to continue to pray for and support this precious girl much in the coming days and weeks. Having lost my own father to a sudden death when I was 17, my heart went out to the daughter in a special way.

The next day, we celebrated a beautiful burial service at the cemetery in the hot late morning sun. Many people turned out to honor and pray for the repose of the soul of this God-fearing woman. Afterwards, the family was generous enough to invite me back to their home for the reception where the scores of family and friends gathered.

Many of the daughter's friends were playing basketball in the street shortly after I arrived. At one point, I walked over and asked how much they would wager that I could drain a 20-foot shot. One guy said, "$20". My first shot fell short, and I was in the hole to the young lad. "Double or nothing", I said, to which he agreed. Then, as I lined up the next shot, one of the girls said, "I didn't know priests could play basketball" to the group of about 20 who had gathered. Whoosh! The second shot was good, the kids went nuts, and the guy was shaking his head.

Some time later, I was talking with some of the good folks back in the house. A family member asked for a blessing. Minutes after the blessing, she asked to go to Confession which we did on the side porch. Another beautiful woman of faith! When we walked back in the living room, another woman asked to reconcile with God (and the Church) in Confession.

By the time I left, three people had made beautiful Confessions; what an awesome gift for this new priest! And, it had been many, many years for some. I was reiterating to them how great it was that they came back to the Sacrament, and how much it pleased God. I told them that there was great rejoicing in heaven, just as Jesus has said: "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7).

8 Comments:

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the lines of confession. I haven't been to church in a long time and sometimes feel it is too late. Should I just jump right in and go? I don't know what is holding me back. I guess I just feel bad because I haven't gone in a long time. My friends tell me "Go to St. Andrews"

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Anon, thanks for your comments and questions. It is interesting that you posted this today because in my homily at Mass this morning, I repeated a line from the first reading several times: "it is time to seek the Lord" (Hosea 10:12). It is always time to seek the Lord; it is never too late.

Yes, you should just jump right in and come back! Please don't miss another Sunday. "Keep holy the Sabbath" applies to every Sunday. Most of us don't realize how serious it is to skip Mass. If we freely choose to miss on Sunday, and know full well that it's gravely wrong, then we commit a mortal sin. Mortal sin is scary stuff (#1861 of the Catechism of Catholic Church says what happens to someone who dies in a state of mortal sin)!

You should go to Confession asap. No matter how long it's been, no matter what you've done, GOD WILL FORGIVE ANY AND ALL OF YOUR SINS FOR WHICH YOU ARE TRULY SORRY. He has given me and all priests his power to forgive sins (see Jn 20:20-23) so that you can experience his love, mercy, and forgiveness in a real way. As I wrote in my post, he and all those in heaven will rejoice when you come back!

If you're still on the fence, please read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The son who leaves his father's home realizes he has messed up. As he is making his way back to admit his sins, the father "was filled with compassion. He ran to greet him, embraced him and kissed him". If you or anyone comes to me for Confession I will offer Christ's compassion, peace, and mercy. What a privilege it is to bring God's grace to those who seek it!

So, yes, please come to St Andrew's! I will be hearing Confessions this Saturday from 4-5 pm in the rear of the Church at St Andrew's. If you can't make that, you (OR ANYONE) can email me - click on my profile for my address- or call me in the rectory (301-649-3700 x 314) to make an appointment.

Btw, if you don't make it to Confession before you go to Mass, PLEASE don't receive the Eucharist at Mass. We always need to be a in state of Grace to receive the Body of Christ. Confession restores us to a state of grace if we've left it.

Anon, this is really good stuff. Like, heart-of-the-(Gospel)-matter stuff. Please don't be afraid to come forward. God is at work here, and is inviting you to a deeper friendship with Him. There is so much He wants to show you about life, and a life in friendship with Him. It is an awesome life!!

 
At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg,

Thank you so much for being so understanding!! I haven't done anything reckless or concerning but I am just a very shy person that's all and that's why I find confession difficult but I do see the importance of it.

See you on Sunday!!

 
At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think priests realize how they impact the lives of others. A friend of mine was driving home with her mother when a crazy drived slammed his car into the passenger side of her car. Her mother was so badly hurt she was paralyzed from the neck down!! After suffering like this for 10 months she passed away. My friend was so devestated! Msgr. Mellone rushed to the hospital. My friend said if it wasn't for Msgr. Mellone's compassion and kindness she would not have made through such a horrible time in her life. At the time my friend had been away from the church for over 20 years. Not only did she return to the church but she has not missed a week of mass since 1997!!!

 
At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Nick said...

Anon-

I agree with you but I would go one further. We are ALL called to give witness to the wonderful gifts of God's Grace and His Church. What we say or do may not have an immediate impact on others's journey toward Jesus but you never know how much or when it may eventually assist.

I am sure this works both ways. What we say and do can turn people away. I try to remember to ask for help from the Holy Spirit to just allow Him to use me and to minimize my own ability to screw it up. I am not sure how successful an evenagelizer I am but I keep praying.

 
At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

I totally agree with you that whatever you say can have an impact for the good or the bad. I have seen people of other churches be very pressure creating in order to have others join their circles and have seen disasterous results because of that. I don't see that pressure being placed on people who are inquiring about the Catholic Church.

Incidentally you are a successful evangelizer. Do you go to St. Andrews? I am parishless.

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Anon-

I do go to St. A's and I will tell you that when I came back to the Church, I was looking for a parish that would make me "feel" good. St. Andrew's most definitely fit the bill. I have since been fortunate enough to realize the main reason we go to Mass - the Eucharist.

Charismatic priests and joyful parishes come and go but the Eucharist remains. I pray that you will come home - regardless of which parish that may be. (I will plug St. A's as a great place to be howerver!)

 
At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick,

Thanks for your prayer I appreciate it! I doubt I will be going to St. Andrew's but continue to go to a church downtown I feel peaceful in.

Incidentally my husband thinks golf is a great game too!

 

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