Fr. Francis Scaria
In the wilderness of Judea John the Baptist began his ministry telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:2). Jesus began his proclamation saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:14). It is through repentance that human salvation is actualised. Jesus’ own mission was one of reconciliation. Regarding this, St. Paul says, “And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Col 1:20-22).
This is a ministry that brings great joy to heaven. Jesus says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15:7). The very same sentiments are repeated in v.10 after narrating the parable of the lost coin: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. The aspect of joy and celebration at the return of the prodigal son could not be overemphasised by Jesus. This ‘greater joy’ may not seem to be very sensible to the rational mind. The elder son in the parable of the Prodigal Son also complains to the Father about the greater celebration for the prodigal younger brother who returned than for himself who never went astray. We can understand this mystery of ‘greater joy’ at the return of the sinner only by sitting at the feet of the merciful Lord. It is a mystery to be absorbed rather than a logic to be understood.
In the Bible we do not come across any instance where Jesus was angry with a sinner. He was always compassionate. He never condemned any sinner, because his concern was always to gain him or her for the Heavenly Father and thereby bring joy to Him and His angels in heaven. On the other hand he was angry with the self-righteous attitude of the scribes and Pharisees.
The Apostles are called to preach the Good News which is primarily an invitation to repentance. St. Paul says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:18-20)
This emphasises the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to every priest. I believe the greatest joy for any priest should be one that celebrates the reconciliation of God’s people. Great saints like John Mary Vianney and Padre Pio took great interest in bringing joy to heaven through this ministry at the Confessional.
MUSINGS : 1-25,