“Thy Mercy My God”

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
the joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
and He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
and weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
and the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine
seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
 All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

Over the past week we have been reading and praying through The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. This book dives into the different characters in Rembrandt’s painting portraying the return of the prodigal son. At first I thought I would relate to the prodigal son, but the more we dove into the book I found myself relating to one of the curious bystanders. Interested in what is taking place , captivated even, but fearful of stepping in, fearful of getting involved all the way.

I love the sacrament of reconciliation. However, during the past couple of weeks God has really been stirring up in my heart the desire to embrace the sacrament of reconciliation in a fuller way than ever before. Sins from my past that I had somewhat gone to confession for resurfaced, things that I had totally forgotten. Let me explain the “somewhat confessed” part a bit more. Yes, I had gone to confession, but it was recently brought to my attention that I was pretty vague when confessing those sins. I had not dared to be as vulnerable as possible; I had  not dared to really lay it all out.

The more we dove into the parable of the prodigal son, the more my heart was convicted that in a very real way, I was living the limited life of the curious bystander. Captivated by the mercy of the father but not willing to enter into his merciful embrace.

I went to reconciliation twice this week. Yes, twice. The first time I went was totally unexpected, I had planned (I am sure that made God chuckle) to talk with the priest and just ask him some questions. I ended up confessing a sin, really laying it out, and in exchange I received mercy and compassion. I was so overcome with a sense of dignity and freedom. The second time I went to confession was  today. After my first confession of the week, the very next day more past sins resurfaced, sins I had vaguely confessed. My first reaction to that was “Really?!? I just went to confession, why didn’t this come up yesterday?!?” The more I prayed into this situation, the more I was convicted that I needed to embrace the sacrament once again. And this week, the parish that was here brought a priest with them, it also happened to be a priest I knew. This morning in morning prayer, pretty much the whole prayer was about God’s mercy, forgiveness, and joy (Psalm 51, Jeremiah 14:17-21, Psalm 100). The responsory was “At daybreak, be merciful to me.” When each of the missionaries shared how the readings for the morning struck them, I shared about how I was terrified about going to confession but I knew God was inviting me to be receptive of all the mercy He has in store – He does not want me to settle for scraps of His mercy, He wants to flood my soul with it. Well, it turns out that the priest that was here for the week, the priest who I knew (Fr Ketter) happened to be sitting in the chapel that morning. Ha. God provides :)

Later that morning I was helping serve breakfast for the retreat group and when Fr Ketter was next in line, he asked if I wanted to talk later. I smiled and said yes. I was excited to go to reconciliation and pretty fearful at the same time. The time came, we walked outside and sat on one of the benches by the lake. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon. So, I talked with Fr Ketter, embraced the sacrament and was met with mercy and a more deeply instilled sense of my dignity as God’s beloved daughter.

So if I can share anything with you, it would be to not be afraid to embrace the sacrament of reconciliation. Do not settle for the role of the curious bystander. Dare to step into that mercy – dare to be free.

Return of the Prodigal Son

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