Who is worthy to receive the love and unconditional forgiveness of God? During every Mass, we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy… but say the Word and my soul shall be healed.” Jesus illustrates in Luke 15:1-32 that we are all worthy, but not because of what we do — rather, it’s because of what Jesus did do: He died on the cross to take our sins into death so that we can rise up with him in the perpetual Easter experience of unity with God.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it’s not what the son did that made his return home acceptable. It’s not his repentance that made him worthy of receiving his father’s love. It’s what the father did. He loved his child. Unconditionally. He loved him even while he was far away, even while he was straying in a sinful lifestyle.
The dad’s unconditional, faithful love was his gift to the son even while the son was rejecting it.
The gift that the son gave to his dad upon his return home was an open heart to receive the love that had always been available.
During every Mass, we come to church as prodigal children. It doesn’t matter that we think we’ve been good Christians all week long. In some way or other, we have turned our backs on God’s full, unconditional, faithful love. This is why we always start Mass acknowledging that we have sinned. Let’s take this opportunity very seriously!
Next, we listen to the Word that heals our broken relationships with God. The homily should always be carefully planned to enhance this, but if it’s not, Jesus is nonetheless speaking to you through his Holy Spirit; listen in your heart. Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, has already begun to respond to your presence at Mass.
In the Offertory, we offer ourselves to the Father; it’s our moment of surrender: “I no longer deserve to be called your child, so do with me as you will.” What God wills is for us to be restored to a fully loving, give-and-take relationship with him and his family. And thus, in the grandest moment of the Liturgy, we receive the Eucharist as a gift of unity with God and with his whole family, the Church. (Those who cannot receive the Communion of the Host and Cup are graced with a Spiritual Communion.)
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