…..from your Pastor’s Desk:
“Bless me Father for I have sinned”
When was the last time you said those words? This week you will have an excellent opportunity to do just that. This Thursday evening [April 4th] starting at 7pm we will have our ’Lenten Confessions”. Three priests will be available. Each confession ‘station’ will have the option of kneeling behind a screen for privacy or sitting face to face with the confessor. We will also have hand-outs available with the procedure and prayers for those who might need a ‘refresher’. Before you decide if you will avail yourself of this opportunity for Reconciliation – please read on.
Celebrating and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be among the most blessed of human experiences. Yet, there are a number of reasons why we don’t take advantage of the Sacrament or do not celebrate it well. Fear, shame, that experiences of the past with a difficult priest, a long time since the last reception of the Sacrament or bad habits in celebrating it now are all possible reasons for struggles with the Sacrament. The solution is so simple. A simple understanding of the Sacrament and a small encouragement to give it another try, with a new expectation, can literally change our lives and will certainly renew our faith.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is God’s gift to us. In the story of the Prodigal Son, which we hear today, Jesus tells us that God is simply waiting for us to ‘come home’. In the story, the father is not only waiting, he is out by the road longing for the wayward son to return. And when the son begins to give his practiced speech of repentance, the father stops him and orders that a celebration begin.
Jesus is telling us that this is how God feels about our reconciliation. It is not about our having to shame ourselves or face being scolded. It is all about letting ourselves receive the merciful and healing love and peace that only God’s love can give us.
Often asked questions: “What does serious sin look like? Do we still have mortal and venial sins? How do I examine my conscience?” First of all, let’s consider what serious sin is. According to the teaching that many of us learned in our catechism or religious education, there are serious and less serious sins. A serious sin is called a ‘mortal’ sin because it mortally wounds our relationship with God. To say it another way, when we see what a mortal sin is, it will become clear to us that it is a choice which involves turning my back on my relationship with God, freely and deliberately. Less serious sins, called ‘venial’ sins, involve weakness and patterns of sin in our lives. They are sins, for sure, and involve missing the mark of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but, as we will see clearly, they do not involve a free and deliberate choice to turn our backs completely on our relationship with God.
For something to be a mortal sin, three things are required. All three of them are necessary.
1) It must be something quite seriously wrong.
2) It must be something I do, knowing that it is serious and knowing that it is wrong. And,
3) It must be something I do deliberately, that is freely.
So, for something to be a mortal sin, I have to understand that something is serious enough to ruin my relationship with God and freely choose to do it anyway.
When we examine our consciences we are looking primarily for things like that. And we’re looking for them in two areas: in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. For example I might never have mistreated my children, verbally or physically, but I might examine my conscience and recognize that I failed in my responsibility to raise them in the faith – the commitment I made at the time of my marriage and at their baptisms. However, I might judge that, though it is a serious matter, I did not do it deliberately and intentionally. In that case, I might examine this situation in terms of my overall selfish-ness or failure to live my commitments – perhaps venial sins in the area of what I failed to do, but for which I can ask forgiveness and receive healing so I can do this better in the future, and receive our Lord’s peace, even if I can’t fix the past.
Our Sins Are Forgiven. We must never forget what happened in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our sins are forgiven! They’re taken away! The slate is wiped clean. We have a new beginning – a fresh start. We receive God’s mercy and are filled with God’s peace. And once this total and complete forgiveness happens, deep and lasting healing can happen as well.
So, it is a great idea to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to receive a fresh start and to let the grace of healing begin. Most of us are ready to do that because we really miss communion with our God. We really don’t like division, conflict, selfishness, negativity, disorder, injustice or dishonesty. We long for integrity and a love which nothing but this Sacrament can offer us.
Now, with all that being said, if you haven’t been for a while don’t worry about the format –we will walk you through it. All you need is a humble, contrite heart and willingness to do better afterwards. God takes great delight in your returning to Him. You’ve carried your burden alone – for far too long. Remember; there is no sin that cannot be forgiven – but we must ask.