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  • Steve Auth

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Dear Mission Team,

In  just 14 days, we will be launching our 11th Holy Week Mission!  Can’t wait!  For this year, our theme will draw from today’s Gospel reading, The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Three key points:

1.        Humility.  One of the most important attitudes of a successful missionary on the street is Humility.  New Yorkers are not by nature humble, and sometimes get testy when approached by someone who seems to think he or she is better or holier than they.  Missionaries who know and love Christ, on the other hand, can sometimes project an attitude of spiritual pride that butts up against the natural prideful-ness of the souls we are trying to bring back.  In some ways, we can become the older son in the story, who resents the sins of his younger brother,  the mercy shown the younger brother by the father, and the father’s seeming indifference to the older son’s  own holiness and loyalty over the years.  So if you’re feeling proud about being a missionary, that’s ok, even good.  We should be proud soldiers of Christ.  But don’t let that pride go to  your head.  Remember that only God can heal a wounded soul; we are just His instruments for doing so.  And remember that He didn’t call us because we are holier than others, or better equipped.  In fact, the opposite:  “Jesus does not call the equipped.  He  equips the called.”  When we approach others with a humble, but confident and joyful heart, we attract instead of repel.  They sense that humility and it brings their own defenses down.  Walls fall.  Souls are saved.

2.        Mercy.  Out in SoHo, we will meet many people who believe that  their sins are so great and that  their time away from the Church is so long, that they can never really be forgiven.  They in effect believe that their sins are bigger than the Lord’s mercy.  Newsflash:  No one’s sins are bigger than God’s mercy.  No one’s.  So when someone tells you his sins are too big, too embarrassing, or just too evil, remind her of this:   God already knows what we’ve done, and in more detail than even we care to remember.  All those details pain him deeply, because those sins make us less and less of the perfect beings he created us to be.  He wants us to return home to him.  That’s all.  Going back to God in confession is not really that hard when you think about the sacrament this way.  In today’s parable, the father knew what his son had done.  He barely even gave him time to work through the whole confession before, unable to stop the flow of love pouring from his heart, he wrapped a new cloak around him and threw a feast!  In SoHo, we will be seeking out and finding the prodigal sons and daughters who think they have no way back to God.  We will remind them that they do, that the Lord knows what they’ve done and just wants them to come back and apologize so they can kiss and make up.  Then He will throw His great big arms of mercy around them and restore them to their former position.  They will be home.

3.       Celebration.  The story ends with a celebration, with some people in it and others not.  The ones who are in the feast are those who came back to God with humility in their hearts.  The ones outside the feast are the ones too proud to bow to the Father and seek his forgiveness for sins big, and sometimes little.  That celebration is the great Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday that will mark the triumphant end of our week of missions in SoHo.  Let’s make sure the Basilica   of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in SoHo is bursting at the rafters.  Let’s not let pride—ours or the souls’ we encounter – keep anyone from the feast!  Let’s make this the best Easter ever in SoHo.

See you on the streets.

A missionary


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