Fr. Joe Kempf on Reconciliation

Fr. Joe Kempf is talking  on the meaning of forgiveness, both seeking and receiving. This will be in three parts – realizing the need to seek forgiveness, the older brother, and the mercy of God available in reconciliation.


If you only know one story from the Bible, know the parable of the Prodigal Son (aka the Forgiving Father).

In the prodigal son the actions of the father are truly remarkable – the son had basically said that he wised the father dead.

The invitation from God is to come home to a true and everlasting life.

Think of Peter betrayed Jesus, and their encounter afterwards … why did Peter weep? Fr. Joe thinks that Peter wept because he realized, for the first time, just how much Jesus loved him.


The older brother falls into the trap that many people who have faith fall into … we think that we are above others, that we do not need the mercy that others need (the trap of the Pharisees).

The five misunderstands of forgiveness:

  1. To act like no wrong was done.
  2. To forgive is to put myself in the situation where we can be wronged again and again.
  3. To think that it is optional. To not forgive has been likened to drinking rat poison, then waiting for the rat to die. In other words, carrying around the lack of forgiveness is enormously corrosive and self-destructive.
  4. To think that it would be easier to forgive if you get revenge first. Talked about a person who interviewed people that attended the execution of someone who’d hurt their family. Uniformly the response afterwards was “it was not enough”. Revenge is insatiable.
  5. To think that it is a one time thing and then we’re done. For most of us most of the time it’s a continual process.

So then, how do we forgive?

  1.  We make an act of the will and choose it.
  2. We surround it to God.
  3. We do steps 1 and 2 again and again and again.

Told a good story about about forgiving someone with whom he had conflict in the parish, and another story about a person who died before resolving a conflict with a daughter.


The invitation from God is to come home to a true and everlasting life.

Reconciliation is the gift of the Church, the ordinary means for receiving the compassion, the mercy of Christ, the welcoming embrace of the Father (as in the parable of the prodigal son).

The good news is that the power of confession, in which receive the mercy of God, is not dependent upon the disposition of the priest to whom we go.

What do we confess? Do a good examination of conscience, then confess anything that we need to “get off our chest”, then those areas that we have omitted to do (think of Matthew 25 – the last judgement – “I was hungry and you did not feed me …”).

Then we need to make amends wherever possible. Have no concerns about what the priest will think, because truthfully they’ve heard all this and more before, and they receive a real grace for this.

Then start over again and move on.

personal note: Reconciliation has become one of my favorite parts of life. After going years and years without making a serious confession, and then stumbling badly and reaching out in desperation to our parish priest and seeking the sacrament of reconciliation, the ensuing reality of mercy, forgiveness, healing and grace were so overwhelming as to be undeniable.

After awhile I started going once a year, then once a month, now most weeks do not pass without finding a priest and making a (hopefully) good confession.

Mercy rocks!

Fr. Joe Kempf on Reconciliation

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