April 18, 2011

Reconciliation Monday

Today in the dioceses of Rockville Centre, Brooklyn, and New York is what is being billed as "Reconciliation Monday." That means that in every church in all three dioceses, priests will be available for confessions from 3:00-9:00 PM.  While confession isn't my favorite things to do (it ranks right up there with root canal),  the closer my relationship with God has become, the more I realize the need for this great sacrament of God's forgiveness and mercy.

Last weekend I gave a talk on a retreat about reconciliation.  I referred to Henri Nouwen's book Return of the Prodigal Son and displayed a large poster of Rembrandt's painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son, from which the book gets its title. Nouwen writes that the moment he saw a poster of the painting in a frriend's office, he became fascinated with it, and sought the painting out at it's home at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. After reading the book, I too became enamored with the painting and had to buy my own 3x4 foot version of it.

Rembrandt van Rijn was a 17th Century Dutch painter who is known for his paintings and etchings of scenes from Scripture.  While I have never seen this particular painting, as I don't think it has left Russia,  I have seen Rembrandt's etching of the same parable. The etching is much more detailed than the painting,  although lacking the dramatic effect of chiaroscuro which the artist perfected. It seems to draw the viewer into the scene in almost iconic faschion, and like the painting, expresses the great reconciling embrace between the father and the son.  

The Prodigal Son, as we know,  is a story of forgiveness, of mercy, and of love. The father welcomes his wayward son home with such tenderness, and Rembrandt's use of light illuminates this reconciling embrace. Rembrandt was well versed in the Bible and his paintings are colored so to speak with his own life experiences. He must have known well the need for God's forgiveness and mercy.  When I meditate on this painting, I, like Nouwen, can see myself in the different characters depicted. Sometimes I am like the younger son, sometimes like the older, and sometimes like the old woman (probably the mother) who is hiding in the shadows. As Lent comes to a close, however, we are all called to be the younger son who seeks his father's forgiveness for the wrong he has done. When we humble ourselves and confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive this reconciling embrace from our Heavenly Father and are welcomed "home" with joy and feasting.

Holy Week has begun. Our focus now is on the Passion of Jesus.  As He stretched His arms on the cross, that was His reconciling embrace for the salvation of the world.  We praise you O Christ, and we bless you. For by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

1 comment:

  1. How true that the act of asking for forgiveness is so much more difficult than committing the sin itself.
    But through the practice of humility I know am brought closer to my self and the Good that is within me.
    Not sure if I will make it to confession this week. At mass on Sunday, John said being there was his confession. Since it has certainly been a while since either of us attended, perhaps we too were like the prodigal son.