Question: How does a person return to our Roman Catholic church after not attending for a couple of years? Especially during Covid.
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Paul’s Answer:
Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to turn to the Gospels, particularly the account of the Prodigal Son, or better yet, the story of the Loving Father. This is my favorite Gospel story and it can be found in its entirety in Luke 15 :11–32. We won’t have time to read the entire account here, but I’d invite you to take a few moments and check it out. Let’s focus on the 2 main protagonists – the forgiving father and the returning son.
1. First words from the son: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your servants” (Luke 15:19) Realize that you too upon returning might feel similar sentiments – embarrassment or perhaps anxiety – and feel that you need to ‘prove’ yourself again as worthy of God’s love. Let’s see what the father replies to this:
2. First actions from the father: “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20) The father breaks with local tradition of the time concerning wealthy landowners and runs to meet the son, not waiting until the son reaches him and tells him that he’s sorry. He puts shoes on his feet – showing that his son still is a member of his own family. He then puts a ring on his finger – the signet ring which in his culture and time was used to seal documents and other important items in hot wax, meaning his son has a share in his fortune; to put it in contemporary language, his son has ‘signing authority’.
The father takes him back instantly and without conditions even though the son doesn’t feel worthy and would prefer just to be taken back as ‘a hired hand’.
In the same way – when anyone returns to the church after an absence, God is absolutely thrilled – and takes us back without reservations. It doesn’t matter what someone did in their absence from the Church. God is always thrilled to have them back. We call this unconditional love: love without any limitations or conditions put on it. When we ask God for forgiveness, there is nothing extra we must do or say – we can move on with our lives because God already has. There are no Christians with an asterisk – just Christians. And God does not do this grudgingly: “…there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who do not need to repent (Luke 15:7)
During COVID from a very practical standpoint, is there something you can do in order to deepen your faith?
First of all, Christianity is all about a relationship with Jesus. All the doctrines, rules that exist in the Church are there simply to help us in that relationship with Him. Take this time during COVID to perhaps learn more about God – read the Gospels, especially the Gospel of the day and spend a moment asking God to use that Gospel to guide your steps. Take a few moments each day to develop a “friendly relationship” with God where you talk to God like as you would in any good friendship. Finally, take this time to reflect on your response to God’s goodness – we are called Christians or little Christs. How will you reflect God’s unconditional love and mercy to those around you in your everyday life? (cf Matthew 18:33)
Thank you for listening in to this Question and Answer series. If you have follow up questions to this answer or have other questions send them in to us.