The key word in my sermon is going to be “healing,”
because as we go through our book for Lent,
the Seven Secrets of Confession, this is the second “secret.”
And, looking ahead to next Sunday,
I’m going to cover the next two chapters at once,
so you may want to read ahead.
And if you don’t have this book, there are some at the exit.
So, pop quiz: when we receive the sacrament of reconciliation,
the main thing we are there to get is…
No, not forgiveness – as important as that is, and it’s very important!
But that is really a part of something larger that we need,
and that’s healing.
It’s like when you build a house or a barn.
You have to dig a solid foundation, or else the whole structure will fail;
but the foundation isn’t the house.
Similarly, forgiveness is the foundation of the healing
that we really need.
So to drill into this, let’s think about
how healing works in general terms.
One of the first thing that comes to mind
is that you have to restore wholeness.
So if you have a cut or a wound, what do you do?
You have to clean it and close it up. If there’s a broken bone,
it has to be set, so the body can knit back together.
So what would be a spiritual wound?
Well, if every time I come, I am confessing fights with my wife,
or with my coworkers – that’s a wound.
Yes, I will be forgiven for my harsh words and yelling;
but there’s still something that needs to be repaired and reset:
Like how I deal with my family, or what I expect from my coworkers.
In the same vein, getting healed often requires a course of treatment.
Maybe the doctor tells us, take these pills twice a day for ten days.
Now you might do what the doctor ordered
and take the whole course of pills.
Or maybe you don’t bother with it.
But would it make sense to take one pill,
then wait months or years, and take another?
You know right away, that won’t work.
It’s the same with this sacrament. The real healing in our lives happens,
not because we go only when things get bad enough,
but when we regularly receiving the grace of this sacrament.
And yet, this causes frustration, because we end up
confronting the same sins and habits.
But there is a real grace here.
This forces to face reality; and it also leads us to humility.
I’m forced to admit: I really can’t do this without God;
and I can’t do it unless my pride is bowed down.
A lot of us don’t even like going to see the doctor.
Even if our insurance pays for it, we put it off. Why?
Isn’t it because you and I know the doctor is probably going to tell us
something we don’t want to hear. “You have to lose weight.”
Or, “no more spicy food,” or “you have to start exercising more.”
In other words, the doctor is going to ask us to change,
and we’d rather not deal with that.
And it’s the same in the spiritual life.
When folks come to receive this sacrament from me,
I don’t always have any special advice.
And if I do, time is short, and sometimes the line is long.
So sometimes I will invite you
to pursue this with me outside the sacrament.
I can’t make anyone do that of course, but the thing is,
sometimes, for healing to happen, more needs to be talked about.
This is where we can make a connection
with the Scripture readings we heard.
It may not be obvious, but something similar is at work
with both Abram in the first reading, and the Apostles in the Gospel.
Why did God tell Abram to get up and move hundreds of miles away?
Why couldn’t he stay where he was?
The answer is, because God knew that’s the change Abram needed,
to become a new man of faith. This was the healing he needed.
Likewise, Jesus knew what Peter, James and John needed.
This revelation of Jesus’ full divinity
happens not long before Jesus is arrested and crucified.
That would be a grave crisis for the Apostles.
This is the inoculation that will get them through it.
As it is, Peter loses courage,
and James is nowhere to be found on Good Friday.
But what would have happened without this booster shot?
Notice the other apostles aren’t there.
Could it be that he was relying on these three
to strengthen the others?
That leads to another reason why it matters that each of us
receive this sacrament of reconciliation frequently.
It isn’t just for me; it isn’t just for you.
If you’re not healthy, does that affect anyone else in your house
or at school? And of course it does.
As your priest, I go to confession two to three times a month.
What if I only “took the treatment” once or twice a year?
What if I never received this sacrament?
Would you be OK with that?
I can hear you say, “No, but you’re the priest.”
But is it really true that I am the only one
whose spiritual health affects you, and affects this parish?
We know that’s not true.
Our parish has a lot of life, but that doesn’t just happen.
It happens because there is health in the Body of Christ,
of which each of us is one member.
So if you’ll forgive me borrowing words
from President John F. Kennedy,
this isn’t just about what Christ is going to do for you;
it’s also about what you will do for Christ,
by growing in grace through this wonderful sacrament.
This Tuesday, every parish in the Archdiocese, including St. Remy,
will have two hours of confessions, from 7 to 9 pm.