My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
On Sunday, July the 30th, 1922, the renowned English writer, G.K. Chesterton, was received into the Church at the age of 48. When later asked why he had become Catholic, Chesterton replied: “To get rid of my sins”.
Over the past fortnight as we’ve journeyed together on the way, we have been exploring the importance of repentance in the life of the Christian disciple. We have learned how to examine our conscience each night. We have memorized an Act of Contrition. This week we will deploy both within the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we too, just like Chesterton, can also get rid of our sins.
Christ invites each one of us to repentance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He wants to heal us. He wants to make us whole so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John saying: “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again,” (John 8:11). So too Christ wishes to encounter you and me, personally, individually, quietly, lovingly in order to forgive our sins, heal our wounds and strengthen us with his grace as we too go on our way.
As for the role of the priest? Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Christ empowered his apostles and their successors to forgive sins in his name and with his divine authority. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained,” (John 20:23).
I don’t know about you, but I find it really incredible that Jesus gave such authority to human beings. Think about it! Sinners are given the power to forgive sinners. This amazes me, but it is what Jesus has done. Now to be clear, the priest is only the means by which Jesus himself forgives sins. That is why we poor sinners, we priests, can dare to place ourselves in the confessional. That is why, in Latin, we refer to the priest who hears confessions and imparts absolution as being In Persona Christi or “In the Person of Christ”. It is Christ who hears your confession. It is Christ who absolves you. It is Christ who sets you free.
Acknowledging our sins and seeking the Lord’s mercy is an act of humility. And through this act we bring our weakness and brokenness to the Lord and open ourselves up to His great Mercy – a gift He so desires to give each one of us as we hear in 2 Peter 3:9: “Not wishing any should perish, but all should reach repentance.”
No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, repentance will always be necessary. We are not perfect and we never will be this side of the grave. We stumble down the path to holiness daily, sometimes hourly! But, by pausing to examine our faults, confessing them to a priest and opening ourselves up to God’s great mercy we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and continue the work He has begun in us at our baptism.
So, my challenge for you this week is: Take the opportunity to go to Confession. Prayerfully prepare for confession by making an Examination of Conscience. Let us ask the Lord to reveal areas in our life where we need healing and take the time to enter into this holy Sacrament.
If going to Confession is a healthy habit you have already formed, then my challenge to you is: To invite a friend or family member to seek the Lord’s mercy through this sacrament in order to experience the healing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ll be back with another challenge on repentance next week. Until then, may God bless you with His grace throughout this coming week, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing