What would you give for a second chance? What would you do to have a fresh start in which all the mistakes of your past were forgotten? What would it mean to you to have your slate wiped clean and be returned to innocence?
That is exactly what God offers us at the beginning of each day. With the rising of the sun, we have a chance to start over again, to learn from the mistakes of our past and make healthy, holy choices. Every minute of every day, we can turn to Him, ask for forgiveness and rely on Him for the strength to do good. When we repent, God forgives the wrong we have done, picks us up, cleans us off and sets us back on our feet. The fresh start we need is as simple as turning to our Heavenly Father with a sincerely sorrowful heart.
That is the promise of today’s readings.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God teaches us that He does not want the sinner to die but to live. No matter what choices we have made in the past, no matter what sins we have committed, no matter what may have happened to us as a result, we can find forgiveness in our Heavenly Father. As a good and loving Father, He is not eager to punish us but desires to restore our friendship with Him and to give us all we need to live a full and abundant life.
In today’s gospel, Jesus carries the same message forward in the parable about the two sons. One said “no” but changed his mind and went into the vineyard. The other said “yes” but, then, did not obey his father. The meaning is clear. If we have failed in the past, if we have said “no” to God, we can still change our answer. Today we can decide to say “yes” and change the course of our lives. In fact, Jesus explains that even tax collectors and prostitutes - who were considered the greatest of sinners - were entering the Kingdom of God because they believed in Him. The same is true for us.
If you are looking for that fresh start, if you sincerely desire a new beginning, our Heavenly Father is offering it to you today. Simply turn to Him in your heart and let Him know that you are ready to change. Let Him know how tired and fed up you are with the choices you have made and the consequences of your sinfulness. Ask Him to be the center of your life and real change will begin to happen. Today can be the beginning of a whole new life for you.
The next step to take would be going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God offers confession to us not as a way for us to relive all the sinful choices of our past but as a means for us to be relieved of them. Jesus gave His apostles and those who would follow them the power to forgive sins in His name precisely for this reason. That is why we have understood the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be a “second baptism.” It cleanses us of our guilt and restores the innocence of our baptism. It also heals the wounds that sin has created within us and strengthens us to make good and holy choices going forward. No matter how firm our resolution to change may be, if we do not turn to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are bound to fail. We need the strength that is given to us in this beautiful sacrament to make any real and lasting renewal in our lives.
Our “yes” to God cannot only be a one time event. It is something which we have to renew on a daily basis. That way we can make progress not only in avoiding bad choices but in making good and holy ones. It can be as easy as saying to God, “I say ‘yes’ to you today, Lord.” By calling to mind our commitment every day and several times during the day, we are strengthened in our resolve to follow Jesus.
One great spiritual practice that helps us with this is called the “morning offering”. As soon as we wake up in the morning, we offer the day to God, commit ourselves to giving glory to Him and ask for the strength to make holy choices. Any good prayer book should have a morning offering in it or one can be found online. Along with daily prayer, reflection on Scripture and Mass, it is an indispensable way for us to remain firm in saying “yes” to our Heavenly Father.
Finally, it will happen from time to time that we will fall. We can be dragged down by the people around us or our old habits can return. Even the holiest of people can fail. When that happens, God does not want us wallowing in guilt or, even worse, giving up and returning to our old way of life. Instead, we should turn immediately to Him, ask for forgiveness and go to confession as soon as possible. As Pope Francis says continually, “God never tires of forgiving us”. We may feel frustrated that we are confessing the same sins over and over again, but God understands our weakness and willing offers us the chance to begin again.
Today is a new day filled with possibilities. This can be the day we say “yes” to God and experience all the graces and blessings He has to offer us. No matter how we may have responded in the past, no matter how often we may have said “no” to all that God was offering us, today can be the day all that changes. Today can be the day we say “yes”. And if we do say “yes” not only with our lips but with the choices we make, we can be sure that our lives will never be the same.