Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sacrament of Mercy

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)

The Gospel is one of repentance or conversion. It means turning away from all that is not of God and turning towards all that is of God.  He told the woman caught in adultery "...go and sin no more." (John    8:11).  Before curing the paralytic he said: "...your sins are forgiven." (Luke    5:23) In the parable about the lost sheep, Jesus taught that "...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)  Also, He told the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 5:11-32).   Here, a son of a wealthy man demands his share of his inheritance and goes to  another country and squanders all of it living immorally.  Because he is starving, he returns home to ask forgiveness of his father.  Rather than scold him, the father embraces his son and throws a party for him.  These are just a few instances where Our Lord taught us about the importance of being forgiven by God.  Even in his last agony he said of his persecutors and executioners:   "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke    23:24) 

Consistent with his mission, Jesus lived up to his name as Savior by instituting the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. He said to the Apostles on that first Easter Sunday: "'Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.'  And when He had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'" (John 20:21-23)  He virtually was saying that each Apostle had to hear the sins of people; otherwise how would they know whose sins to forgive and whose sins could not be forgiven?  Thus do we have Confession.  A person is aware of his sins, is sorry for them and confesses them to a priest; the Sacrament of Penance is administered.

Next week, there will be more on this Sacrament of mercy in part two. But, before I close: to what sins could Our Lord be referring when He told the Apostles that they could withhold forgiveness? It would be sins confessed without sincere sorrow, that is, sins without the purpose of amendment, the intention not to commit them again.

More on this Sacrament next week.

Father Stanley