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By Fr. Charles Irvin

The Church is our home for forgiveness

Allow me to take this opportunity to tell you how important you are in the plan of God. People who have left our Church, and people who are thinking of joining our Church, can be touched by your words and your life of faith.

Former Catholics speak of “coming home” when it comes to describing their journey back into the life of our Church. Protestant ministers who convert to Catholicism use the same phrase – “coming home” – when it comes to describing their studies of the early Church’s history, and their experience and newly acquired understanding of the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.

For all who are entering, or re-entering, the life of our Church, two sacraments stand out among all other things. One is the sacrament of reconciliation and the other is the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Experiences can be shared, and this is where you are so important. Your testimony can have a profound effect on others – others who are seeking a renewed closeness to Jesus.

The powerful attractiveness of these two sacraments isn’t found in mere words. To be fully understood, they must be experienced, not just talked about. It’s one thing to be told that God forgives you. It’s quite another thing to personally experience God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s one thing to be told that Jesus loves you. It’s quite another thing to experience his Spirit-filled reality in holy Communion.

Your own experience of God’s love gives powerful witness to others who are searching for a close encounter with Christ. Jesus told us:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)

In thinking about coming back home to the Catholic Church, one must first deal with this question: Is the Church here to please me or am I here to please Jesus? The Church’s mission is to bring us to Christ and to bring Christ to us. Hopefully, the Church will be attractive to us, but that is not its mission. Its mission is to bring Jesus Christ to us in his sacraments, and, in those sacramental encounters, to unite us in Christ, who takes us back home to our Father in heaven.

You and I need to remind ourselves that the Church is God’s gift to us. To be sure, it has been marred by our human failings, but it remains what it is: the home in which we can all find love and forgiveness. And it is the home in which our humanity can be joined into Christ’s humanity, and brought back home to our Father in heaven.