Fr. Flatley: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him”


Christ our Emmanuel models for us The Paschal Mystery (suffering/death/resurrection), which in some way is the most significant experience we can know of God’s love and mercy on this side of the veil.

If we pay attention carefully, we will see constant Paschal Mystery patterns in our own lives and in nature all around us.

Christ is the Son of God, who from all eternity knew only perfect, unitive, love with God his Father.

The eternal love flowing between the Father and the Son is God the Holy Spirit.

God the Son, sacrificed this unitive love he knew ... for love of us.

He who was without sin, became sin (which separates us from Divine Grace) for our sake, so that now, once for all, in every human experience of darkness or despair, the light of Christ is present to save us.

Emmanuel is present to deliver us, and make possible once again our participation in this Unitive Divine Love.

All of creation is free to choose in a universe ... where Unconditional Divine Love is the ultimate reality ... we can choose love, or sin.

Christ our redeemer makes possible the perfect reconciliation with the Father, which seems to be what God the Father longs for.

However, we live in a fallen world, and if we are honest, we are all tempted by sin many times each day.

Perhaps no one can explain it better than St. Paul in his very poignant reflection in Romans 7:14-20.

I urge you to read it! Do you relate?

Perhaps one of the most poignant stories in all of Sacred Scripture is the Return of the Prodigal Son.

Christ is revealing His Abba in this story.

This father sees his son from far off, which means he was always looking for the boy, longing for his return.

When he catches sight of him, he rushes out to him, and in his mercy restores him to everything that he sees and loves in him.

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him.” (Luke 15:20)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most glorious sacraments of all.

To confess our sins, we must humble and empty ourselves of arrogance and pride, which is at the root of all sin.

We are enfleshed, and as such, we must, in flesh and blood, name our sins and speak them to a priest, who is acting in the person of Christ.

There is no substitute for this.

This humble act on our part, makes room for God’s love and mercy to flow in, to fill us, to heal/soothe/comfort anything that it in need of this grace.

God will never force this grace on us, just as the Prodigal Father would not have forced his sinful son to return.

God is perfect love and humility, and we are free.

But when we can find the courage to empty ourselves and breathe in this Divine Grace always being offered, God not only forgives our sins, he forgets them.

We come out of this sacramental encounter with a clean heart.

We become a new creation.

In this sacramental grace, God restores us to everything that he sees and loves in us!

Fr. Flatley is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City.