Today’s Gospel gives us an image of the Lord
making his Apostles—and thus, his Church—
the agent of his forgiveness of sins.
So, we heard him say to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."
This, of course, is what happens
in the Sacrament of Confession;
so I want to talk a bit about this sacrament.
Especially on Divine Mercy Sunday,
because this is the Sacrament of his Mercy.
Suppose I said I had a pill that, if you took it every day,
it would give you a luxurious head of hair?
In addition, what if I told you it had no side effects?
And, if you asked, what does it cost? I said, it’s free!
Have all you want!
I bet a lot of you would want that pill!
If not that pill, how about a pill that makes you slender?
Or one that takes away wrinkles,
or keeps you from forgetting people’s names?
We know people want these sorts of pills,
because TV has lots of ads for them!
Now—suppose I told you I had a pill
that would make you as pure as the Virgin Mary?
It would make you a saint? Take all your sins away?
Well, I’d be lying if I said I had such a pill—
but I do have the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
When I do baptisms,
I like to point out that it makes us a saint!
That’s why we sing the Litany of the Saints,
because in baptism, we join their number.
The challenge, of course, is staying a saint—
and that’s where confession is so helpful.
No side effects; no charge!
You can take it as often as you like!
Now, I know many wonder what the priest thinks
when you come to confession.
Well, I’ll tell you!
I think, "Wow! God is at work in this person’s life;
and nothing is a greater privilege
than to be a witness to that.
I am encouraged by your faith.
And when God sends someone to confess my own sins—
to me—nothing is more humbling than that.
The question that always come up is,
"How often do I have to go?"
And there’s no simple answer to that.
The "bare minimum" is once a year,
if you’re aware of any mortal sins.
But a far better to approach the matter is not,
"what’s the minimum," but—"what helps?"
The Church really encourages going "frequently,"
which keeps us on track.
A good rule of thumb would be monthly;
but that’s up to you.
The thing is, I’ve never known any
who were sorry they came to confession—
but I have known those who didn’t come for a long time,
and wished they had come sooner.
A short word about how to make a confession.
Make the sign of the cross,
say how long it’s been,
and tell your sins honestly, completely, but to-the-point.
Being vague or general in the sacrament of confession
makes no more sense than, when you see the doctor,
and she asks, what’s wrong, you say,
"oh, I just don’t feel well!"
For the doctor to help, you have to be specific:
"It hurts here, and here, and here";
"How many times can’t you sleep?" "Three times a week."
Now, we might simply wonder,
why confess our sins to another human being.
This is where we look at what we saw in the first reading.
Why is that people came to Peter—
even if only to have his shadow touch them?
They knew how human, how flawed he was—
better than we do!
What drew them was realizing
the power of Christ was acting in him.
And that’s what we see in the Sacrament of Penance,
and all the sacraments;
and it’s also what they’re for—it’s what they do, in us.
Today, we celebrate Divine Mercy.
His Mercy is what the Apostles were sent—
and given the power—to share with the world.
And it’s what you and I continue to do.
Just as the they saw Christ powerful in Peter,
so people will see him in us, too!
It may seem hard to believe,
but we really can do it—
we really can show the world the power of Christ—
when they see it at work in us.
When they see his power in us;
when we are instruments of his Mercy in the world…
When people see Christ in us,
they will be drawn to say, as Thomas did:
"My Lord and my God!"