SACRED Heart Church in Covina, California held a “24 Hours for the Lord” celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. From 12 pm on Friday, March 4, to 12 pm on Saturday, March 5, priests from the parish and the surrounding parishes of the deanery were scheduled to hear confessions.
To prepare for this event, parishioners of Sacred Heart Church and the surrounding parishes were asked to go door to door in their neighborhoods to invite people to come to this “24 Hours for the Lord” Reconciliation Service.
In his parish website, Sacred Heart Church’s pastor, Fr. Bill Easterling, asked his parishioners “to reach out to their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who have not been to Church in a while and who especially may benefit from the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) because it has been a long time.”
Similar 24 Hours for the Lord services are being held in churches around the world in response to the urgent call of Pope Francis in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy to proclaim God’s mercy to all people and to invite them to enter into genuine conversion.
As if these 24 hours of Confessions in churches worldwide were not enough to proclaim God’s mercy, the Diocese of Salford in England has used a double-decker bus as the venue for priests to hear the confessions of people who have stopped going to church. This “Mercy Bus” has been traveling throughout the Diocese of Salford during Lent to reach out to lapsed Catholics.
This, indeed, is an interesting and delightful phenomenon going on in Catholic Churches around the globe. It is another bold attempt of the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis to reach out to all people to let them have a deep knowledge, experience and encounter of God’s mercy.
It’s absolutely right to hold these special Confessions around the world.
As St. Paul tells us this Sunday at Mass in his Letter to the Corinthians (5:17-21), “And all this from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciling the world, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.”
God has entrusted to us the “ministry of reconciling the world”. This is precisely what Pope Francis is urging us to do. In a world that is ridden with conflict, division, hatred, corruption, and greed, it is urgent that we inspire all people to come to a genuine conversion of hearts and mind and to experience the profound forgiveness and mercy of God. For us, Catholics, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sacred door to this experience God’s mercy.
There is callousness, pride, and self-righteousness in people’s hearts and minds in regards to sinfulness. Many people do not seem to seem to recognize their need to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness. They go about their business unwilling to see the need to reconcile with God and their neighbors. It’s a sickness that is happening in our society today. It is no wonder that there is so much indifference, selfishness, arrogance, and violence in the world.
What the Catholic Church is witnessing in this Extraordinary Year of Mercy is the rediscovery of the value to enter into the life of God that is filled with mercy and love so that we, ourselves, can exercise the same mercy and love toward other people.
May we heed to the urgent call of Pope Francis to invite everyone to this life of mercy! May we all continue this Lenten season and enter Holy Week with full humility and willingness to be embraced like the Prodigal Son by God whose love and mercy always await us!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.