Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confession takes us to the Cross -- and then Heaven (Sunday homily)

As you know, we’ve been working our way through a book together: 
The Seven Secrets of Confession, 
and I want to look at “secrets” five and six today. 
Let’s start there, and then find our way back to the readings we heard.

These are two of the most powerful chapters in Mr. Flynn’s book. 
In Chapter 5, he points out 
that when we receive the Sacrament of Penance, 
we are brought to Calvary, to the Cross. 
And in Chapter 6, he explains that the whole story – 
of his book, and of the Sacrament – 
is that this is about more than a clean slate; it’s about a whole new life.

In short, the Sacrament of Reconciliation takes us first to the Cross – 
and then to heaven. 
So let’s look at that.

Did you notice in the book, 
where Mr. Flynn was at church on the Feast of the Holy Cross, 
and when he came to kiss the Cross, 
the priest instead pressed it against his chest, 
and held it there for a long time, against his heart? 
And the author said he found himself praying, over and over, 
“Lord, I receive your love from the Cross.” 
And then, when he came to communion, same prayer: 
“Lord, I receive your love from the Cross.”

That’s what happens in the Sacrament of Penance: 
we are at the Cross, and Jesus’ love pours down on us.

Can you use your imagination? 
Put yourself there, at the Cross. 
Picture the scene: cruel soldiers, angry, mocking crowds. 
The Blessed Virgin Mary, along with a few of Jesus’ followers, 
are distraught with grief. 
Two thieves, one insulting Jesus, the other begging for mercy. 
Can you see it? 

And there you are. What would you say? 
And, more than that, what would Jesus say to you?

Sometimes we wonder if God will forgive us. 
Did you notice what our author said? 
He realized that “Christ isn’t forgiving me now in the confessional. 
He forgave me 2,000 years ago! I’m just receiving it now!” 
Allow me to quote Mr. Flynn one more time: 
“(Jesus) pulled all your sin, all my sin – all that awful stuff – 
into his pure body, and when his body was destroyed on the cross, 
our sin was destroyed, too.”

This is a good time to bring in the Gospel passage we just heard. 
Jesus sees a man blind from birth, and he stops. 
He seeks him out. He heals him.

But why did Jesus do it the way he did,
by spitting on the ground, and then smearing the mud on his eyes? 

I’ve always wondered that myself; and last week, 
I read an article that explained something about this. 

Do you remember how, in Genesis, 
God created Adam from the dust of the earth? 
In Jesus’ time, many Jews believed that when God did that, 
he first spat on the ground, in order to make clay – 
and then he formed Adam. 
So Jesus’ action here shows his purpose: not just to heal this man, 
but to re-create him. To reshape and re-orient his life.

And this is exactly what Jesus aims at with the Sacrament of Penance! 
Yes, he wants to take away our sins. 
Yes, he wants to restore us as friends. 
But all that is still for something else, 
something great and exciting and overpowering: 
Jesus wants to recreate us, to make us new. 
New lives, new direction – and that direction, of course, is heaven.

Yes, getting there is a lot of work. 
There are a lot jobs in this world that are hard work: 
And changing ourselves is the hardest of all. 
But this is what Jesus longs to do in us. All his will is bent upon it.
He can – and he will remake us, brand new, if we work with him.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing to know?


Anonymous said...

If the sin is something we like to do and know it is almost certain we will continue, is there any reason or benefit in going to confession? We can confess, and might in some way desire to stop the sin, but without a firm resolution to do so based on history, is there a point and if honest in confession, can the priest give absolution?

Fr Martin Fox said...

Yes -- we get grace.

"...and know it is almost certain we will continue..."

Only God knows the future.

If you go to confession and you are sorry, that is enough for absolution. You don't have to swear any oaths or have some level of certainty about what the future holds, because you don't know the future, even if you think you do.

Make sense?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Father, going this week.