Acceptance: The Key To Spiritual Growth And Peace

acceptance and peace

4th Sunday of Lent

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: March 27, 2022

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

I remember about 20 years ago when I had my first promotion at Dofasco and after a couple of months I was really stressed.

We had safety issues, environmental challenges, production breakdowns, high costs and the list went on and on and on.

I was working hard and long hours trying to resolve all these things in our department but could never seem to get ahead.

One day, I was having lunch with a friend who was had been a leader for much longer than I, but didn’t seem to get so anxious and worried, and I asked him how he did it.

He said to me “picture your list of problems or challenges as a stack of books maybe 40 high.  If you work extremely hard, you might get the pile down to 30, and if you work not so hard it might climb to 50.  But the secret is that the pile will never go down to zero!”

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

And he was absolutely right!

The word and theme of acceptance is a key to understanding the readings today and for growth and peace in our spiritual life.

We see in the gospel today, the famous prodigal son, that we have heard about so many times and we see two examples of acceptance.

First, there is a key phrase in the middle of the reading: “when he came to himself” or in other translations “coming to his senses”; we see he finally realizes and accepts his situation and decides to ask for forgiveness from his father and start his life anew.

And then secondly, we see the beautiful image of the father running to his son while he is still far off down the road “was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”   The father showed his son that he was accepted back no matter what he did – no questions were asked, no judgements were given, no lectures; just love and acceptance.

Acceptance is a very powerful word in the spiritual life as we will see in three key ways:

  1. To accept that we aren’t perfect and that we need God in our lives
    1. Acceptance is defined as living in the present moment, allowing the situation to be what it is and recognize it
    2. There is a powerful quote on acceptance in the Alcoholics Anonymous organization that says this: “acceptance is the answer to my problems today. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be and I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”  Many times what causes us stress is we don’t have things the way we want or think they should be and this quote reminds us that the world doesn’t have to change for us, but we have to change our perception and accept the present state instead.
    3. This recognition of ourselves as imperfect people, is something we recognize at mass when we say: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,” It is accepting who we are and to humbly move forward, and knowing this, we then invite God in to help us!
  1. To accept that we are children of God despite our faults and failings
    1. Pope Francis says this: “God’s love is free. He asks for nothing in return; all he wants is for his love to be accepted.”
    2. God does not force us, blackmail us, push us, or twist our arms to love Him. He gives us the choice, and we are called to choose to accept that love each day, and each moment.  We may not feel we are worthy of that love, but God loves us anyway.
    3. We have a baptism today, and Olivia will be accepted into our community of faith as a child of God! Now, we may not remember our own baptisms, but we can each claim this same title of “child of God” for that is what we are!
    4. When we accept this fact, we can praise God like we did in the psalm “I will bless the Lord at all times; My soul makes its boast in the Lord; O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.” The entire psalm is positive, thankful, joyful, for what God has done for us and because we know we are accepted and loved.
  1. To accept that others aren’t perfect either, and we accept them for who they are, and where they are at
    1. When we can accept God’s love, and accept that we are children of God, then we can accept others who are the same!
    2. St Frances de Sales says this so beautifully: “It is a great part of our holiness to bear with one another in our imperfections. For there is no better way of showing our own love to our neighbour”
    3. As St. Paul says in the 2nd reading: “we are a new creation, and we are ambassadors for Christ!”  Knowing that we are accepted and loved, we can tell others without any sense of judgement or being better than others.
    4. This is the fault of the older brother. He could not accept or forgive, but only judge and be bitter and this is not the Christian life.
    5. Jesus accepted and ate and welcomed sinners and tax collectors, modelling what behavior we are to have.

So how do we mirror this example in our daily lives?  How do we accept ourselves as weak, imperfect Christians and make the world a better place?

  • As parents we are called to accept our children’s faults and failings and love them unconditionally.
  • As immigrants (which 99% of our families are), we are called to accept our role in the treatment of the indigenous people of this land in truth and work to be reconciled with them.
  • As citizens, we are called to accept new refugees, immigrants, and migrants with open arms and help them enjoy our great country free from persecution, fear, poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • As fellow human beings, we are called to accept those who identify as LGBTQ as Pope Francis told their parents “God loves your children as they are” and “the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God.”  Therefore, when we fly the rainbow flag at our schools, it is because we accept all of our brothers and sisters as children of God.
  • As friends and family, we are called to accept that we may carry grudges and hurts ourselves and knowing this, we try and reach out and build bridges of peace and love with one another.

We are not perfect, and yet we are still loved more than we can ever deserve by our God!

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

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