Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fr. James's Sunday Homily

This Sunday, our attention is being directed toward an understanding of the reality of sin. Let us recall the words of this Sunday's responsorial psalm: "Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord".

What is sin? The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition. "Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law" (CCC #1849).

Scripture tells us that actual sin is divided into two classifications: mortal sin and venial sin.
"There is a sin that leads to death…"
(1John 5:16).
"Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death" (1John 5:17).

Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession…" (CCC #1456).

Just like all the other sacraments of the Church, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession. The Church has always understood the Scriptural reference for the Sacrament of Confession to be John 20: 22-23: "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained".

What an immense gift we have been given! The Sacrament of Confession is an enormous source of interior peace. The priest raises his hand, and then with a blessing pronounces those amazing words: I absolve you from your sins. At that moment, we know that God has heard our cry for forgiveness, and we have been pardoned of our sins. "God, who is rich in mercy…" (Ephesians 2: 4).

For me, the Sacrament of Reconciliation has been, along with the Eucharist, my greatest source of strength and peace during my journey with the Lord Jesus. As a parish priest, my greatest joys are celebrating the Eucharist for my people and hearing confessions. I am overjoyed when people go to confession on a regular basis, and one of my heaviest crosses as a priest has been the rejection of confession by many people. If they only knew what would give them such peace and happiness.

A few years ago a priest friend of mine from another diocese told me that his bishop recently made an ad limina visit to the Holy Father. Bishops meet with the Pope every five years in order to give him a report on their respective dioceses.

The bishop was very honest with the Holy Father. He told him that his biggest concern is the fact that his priests, religious and laity are not going to confession.

The greatest sin for many people is the denial of sin. How sad this is, and how dangerous this is for the acquisition of eternal life. Despite the constant and clear teaching of the Catholic Church, many people reject the truth.

Once again, let us return to this Sunday's responsorial psalm: "Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way".

Continual spiritual progress is essential. The habitual practice of the sacrament of confession must not be just a practice that takes place before Christmas and Easter. This is a huge mistake. Monthly confession, or whenever necessary, is a fundamental tool to maintain and persevere in the life of grace. Spiritual laziness is very dangerous for any soul.

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