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A strange time of year, time for families to become one…

penanceThought and meditations on the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

By Mgr Alban FSDM

Today, we find ourselves in a strange place in the life of the Church. First of all, the Roman Catholic Church is without a leader, while the previous one is still living. We await with anticipation the election by the Cardinals of the new Bishop of Rome. It seems likely, though not certain, that there will be a new Holy Father by this time next week.

The Bishop of Rome is traditionally known as the Holy Father, as he is a spiritual father to us all. Even, we who are not in full communion with him, recognise him as the leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. We pray for him in the Canon of the Mass – though not during the period of Sede Vacante – as we recognise that he has a spiritual fatherhood over all Christians.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, sometimes known as Refreshment Sunday, and more popularly as ‘Mothering Sunday’ is also a strange day in the year. It is one of the two days in the year when rose-coloured vestments are used. It is a refreshment from the long period of Lent, and it is a day when traditionally people went back to their Mother Churches as well as visiting their earthly mothers.

And so, today’s Gospel has the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. He who went off, spent his inheritance, ended up working as someone else’s servant and decided to return to the bosom of his family. Family is at the heart of the church. Our Lord was born into the Holy Family of Joseph and Mary. At baptism we became members of the family of the Church, we become children of God. It is most appropriate that during this holy season of Lent, a time of penance that we are reminded by the Gospel about the value of becoming reconciled with our family – with God.

As a priest, it is very humbling to hear confessions, to assist souls back to communion with God. Too often, I hear of priests who seem unwilling or unready to hear confessions from penitents. It doesn’t need to be stuck in a draughty confessional at the back of the church building, it can be anywhere. It can be at a campsite, it can be walking along the road, it can be in the comfort of the penitent’s living room, or at the bedside of one who has little time left in this world. Wherever it is celebrated, the Sacrament of Penance is one which brings souls back to God. Through it we become reconciled with our heavenly Father, our heavenly family. Let me end by urging you before we get to Easter to have availed of this Sacrament, brought even your littlest sins before God and become fully reconciled to him.

Who among us would not want to hear the words of absolution?

The almighty and merciful Lord grant unto thee ✠ pardon, absolution, and remission of thy sins. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ absolve thee; and I by his authority absolve thee from every bond of excommunication and interdict, so far as I have power, and thou hast need. Furthermore, I absolve thee from thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the ✠ Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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