Rite of Reconciliation, Holy Week

Reconciliation is not something beautiful we do for God in Holy Week.  It is something beautiful God has done, and is still doing, for us, all the time.

‘It is very odd that people should think that when we do good God will reward us and when we do evil he will punish us. I mean it is very odd that Christians should think this, that God deals out to us what we deserve….You could say that the main theme of the preaching of Jesus is that God isn’t like this at all.  … This is the view of God as seen from hell…. Damnation must be just being fixed in this illusion.’

The prodigal son story ‘is not about the father forgiving his son, it is about the father celebrating….This is all the real God does, because God, the real God, is just helplessly and hopelessly in love with us.  God is unconditionally in love with us.  … It is not that if we are contrite, God will forgive us our sin.  On the contrary, you confess your sin, you recognize yourself for what you are, because you are (already) forgiven….You put on the best robe and the ring on your finger and the sandals on your feet and get drunk out of your mind.’ (Herbert McCabe)

Introductory scripture reading

From Hosea, 11, 1-9 (selected parts):

When Israel was a child, I loved him.
I myself taught him to walk,
I took him in my arms.
But they have not understood that I was the one looking after him.

I led him with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love.
I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek,
stooping down to him I gave him his food.

How could I part with you?
How could I give you up?
How could I treat you like (foreign nations)?
My heart recoils from it,
My inner being trembles at the thought,
I will not give rein to my anger,
I will not destroy what I have done,
for I am God, not a business man,
I am the Holy One in your midst,
I can never do anything destructive.

Let us pray.

In God, our deaths are not the final word, our moments of crisis are part of eternal possibility, and our weakness is taken up into the courage of God.

In Christ, our humanness is touched with divine life, our tears are mingled with the longing love of Jesus, and our solidarity with those who suffer is joined by the divine presence.

In the Spirit there are no boundaries on the dream, there is no end to hope, there will be a world beyond our seeing and we will never live beyond the cherishing of God.


Repentance is the will to give up three addictions or false values:

  • money, refuge in riches, hoarding; 
  • fame, ambition, getting ahead at the expense of others, the mania to be somebody, celebrity status;
  • power, the desire to dominate and control others…

Forgiveness is what God freely gives everyone… Forgiveness turns our repentance into the practice of a different kind of ethics:

The New Ethics asks us to get into three patterns or good ways of living:

  • sharing;
  • equality;
  • solidarity and service. 

    It means the individual isn’t more important than the common good.
    It means private charity isn’t enough to respond to poverty.
    It means the well-off won’t abandon the ‘off’ who aren’t ‘well’.
    It means the strong aren’t better people than the weak.

Reconciliation is the result of doing that.  It is not a reward for repenting.  It is a gift, we have to use if we are genuine.

Reconciliation means that God changes, and becomes part of our mess, to help us do the reconciling.

A rite of reconciliation means none of us has the words to say how we feel about all this.  We all need to use a ritual we didn’t invent, and let is speak for us. 

Examination of conscience for busy poeple now

What does it mean to be an adult? and to behave like one?
An adult is someone who is learning to take responsibility for her life.  An adult learns to say, “I did it” or “I was mistaken” or “I was wrong”.  An adult is not forever blaming people for where she is in life.  An adult does not spend the workday whining about this and that.  An adult learns to take responsibility for what she has control over and move on. 

An adult does not use people to prop up his sagging ego.  An adult can focus on another person, compliment and affirm without always turning the conversation to himself.  Even the person who is always denigrating himself may be doing that in an effort to keep the attention focused on himself.

An adult considers the implications of his or her behavior on other people.  “If I don’t come through with my part of the project, how will that impact the other team members?”  An adult considers the schedules of others instead of being consistently and regularly late (which communicates to others “I care more about what I am doing than I do about you – so I am always causing you to have to wait on me”. 

An adult follows through.  “I’ll give you a call”.  “I’ll put you in my prayers”.  “I’ll bring this book right back”.  Do you follow through? Do people know that when you say you will call that you will call?  Do they know that when you say “Let’s have lunch” that you are serious?  Or do they know that you rarely follow through on what you say?  I was visiting with a friend the other day.  He told me of a mutual friend who one day said to him, “Let’s all get together for dinner soon”.  My friend said, “I knew that would be the last I would ever hear of that unless I took the initiative to make it happen.  That guy is always saying such things but doesn’t follow through”.

Let us pray:

For putting people in boxes, and giving them hurtful names:
    Lord have mercy
For invading their personal space
    Christ have mercy
For demanding their time
    Lord have mercy
For forgetting difference in age-levels
    Christ have mercy
For killing originality
    Lord have mercy
For overpowering people
    Christ have mercy
For claiming things I have no right to
    Lord have mercy
For getting too close, and too far from the action
    Christ have mercy
For letting my imagination run wild
    Lord have mercy

An act of contrition

    Loving, Personal God, you invite me to TRUST in your love for me, just as I am.
    Your message to me is almost too good to be true.
    Open my heart to believe the good news you are offering me.
    I'm sorry I haven't taken you at your word.
    Partner God, I lean on you with confidence.
    Teach me to trust other persons as I trust you, to be open to them as I am to you.
    Forgive my narrowness of vision : it prevents me from choosing life, closes me off from love, and blinds me to the dignity of other people. 

Teach me, like Jesus, to love life, choose love, and be open to the personhood of those around me. 

    I TRUST you are with me.

A prayer of assurance

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
    Guilty of dust and sin,
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
    If I’d lack’d anything.

‘A guest’, I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
    Love said, ‘You shall be he’.
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
    I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
    ‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them; let my shame
    Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not’, says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
    ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down’, says Love, ‘and taste my meat’.
    So I did sit and eat.

[The English poems of George Herbert, p.192]

Concluding blessing

There is no death from which you cannot rise in us, O God.  The power to fail can never kill the gift of life, unless we choose not to receive it from you.  Your Spirit is never defeated by the  woundings of life however unjust, however painful.  Your grace in Christ goes well beyond our understanding and your love for us is never measured by our love for ourselves.  Even as we walk a hard journey we will claim together this great hope.  Amen.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to life everlasting.