Sunday, January 12, 2020

Jesus in the confession line (Sunday homily)

Today’s feast is the last of the Christmas season. 
It’s kind of a transition. 
With Christmas, we think of Jesus as a child; but now he’s a man. 
Christmas is usually about us coming to Jesus, 
but now Jesus is on the move; he’s coming to us.

What actually happens with his baptism
is pretty simple and very startling.

John was telling people: 
be baptized because you are a sinner and you are sorry. 
It was like coming to confession. 
To get in line on the bank of the Jordan, and waiting your turn,
Was a lot like getting in line outside the confessional.
You did it because you were a sinner and needed forgiveness.

So here is Jesus, getting in line with the rest of us.
If I were in the confessional, and Jesus himself came in, 
I would…beg for mercy! Right?

But I absolutely would not say, “OK, tell me your confession…”

That’s exactly how John the Baptist responds.
He says, wait, no…I need you to baptize me! Not this!
And Jesus says, right, but go along with it; it has to be.

The point was, Jesus was getting in line with us sinners.
That was always the point of the whole project.

The first thing we think about is our own baptism.
Christmas means, “God is with us” – that’s what baptism means.
But baptism also means, if you will, “us with God”;
That is, it means we are now citizens of heaven,
And if we hold on to that, not getting turned off the path,
we will be with God forever!

Never forget that you are baptized. You and I are different.
We belong to heaven. We’re just passing through.

The other thing we might think about is that confessional line.
Jesus got in that line. He was fine with that.

So one takeaway that’s really important.
If you ever think, I’m no good, I can’t be forgiven, 
God has finally had it with me!
You remember, Jesus came and got in line with sinners.

Another takeaway: if Jesus can get in that line, why can’t you?

Some might say, I don’t have anything to confess.
I suppose that’s true, how can I argue with that?
All I can say is, that never happens to me!

Now, what I’m about to say only applies to some here.
This is dangerous because some people will take this the wrong way.
Some folks – and you know who you are! – 
do their examination of conscience with a super-atomic microscope.

So if that’s you, what I say next does not apply to you!
But there are others who look in the mirror for 5 seconds, 
“hey, I’m good to go!” and that’s it. 
So just for you, I’m saying, dig a little deeper. Push a little.
That’s for those who say they can’t think of anything to confess.

But for those who already push themselves hard, 
that advice is not for you.  

St. Thomas Aquinas said, virtus stat in media; 
that is, “virtue stands in the middle.” That means, avoid extremes.
Some need to drill deeper; some need to ease up.

But to a broader point: 
what so often keeps me – and maybe you – from going to confession; 
or – even if we go, from really making it fruitful – is pride.
To put it another way: one of the best things 
for knocking down our pride is going regularly to confession.

Perhaps someone might say, “I don’t really need it, 
and I don’t know why Father Fox keeps going about it.”
The answer is, because I’m dull and lack imagination!

But another answer might be this.
Jesus gave us each a toolbox, with just seven tools, called sacraments.
Baptism and confirmation happen just once. That leaves five.
Most of us will never be ordained; we’re at four.
Many of us will never marry; that leave three tools.

One of those is the anointing of the sick, 
which is only called for when we’re seriously or gravely ill; 
so we hope to use that one only rarely. 
That leaves just two – the Holy Eucharist and Confession – 
that are designed for us to keep receiving again and again.
My question is, you’ve got two that are meant for regular use,
Why would you leave one aside to get dusty?

Surely Jesus knew what he was doing 
when he put both of them in the toolbox?

Come to confession. Call me if you need me to come to you.
You may think, I don’t know why I’m doing this, 
But there’s at least one consolation.
Jesus is in that confession line with you.

1 comment:

rcg said...

This is a very important post. Thanks for this. The last year or so I have been reading as much as I can find on examination of conscience. What find is the almost unlimited things to consider so I am trying to find out how to examine me objectively. It is bearing fruit but has opened up a long path. I like that, actually. It has deepened my devotion to Mary and given me a relationship with my guardian angel. These have strengthened me in many ways and I feel myself moving, as on a current of time, toward Our Saviour. This presents a sense of urgency that helps me focus on my goal and, therefore my path. Knowing that Christ was willing to set the example through his cross and resurrection also strengthens me.