The daily Mass readings this past week urged us to conduct our affairs in a manner pleasing to God. In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul urged us to purge immorality from our lives (Mon.), deal justly with one another (Tue.), refrain from idolatry (Thu.), exercise discipline (Fri.), and respect the Eucharist (Sat.). Given we often fall short at one time or another, how fitting it is to begin this week with an unmistakable reminder of God’s mercy!
The Lord relented in punishment (Exodus 32:14). While Moses was on Mount Sinai, conversing with God and retrieving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites ran amok under Aaron’s weak leadership, going so far as to forge and worship a golden calf. Talk about idolatry; God’s chosen people went positively pagan! When God threatened to destroy them, Moses interceded on their behalf, begging for mercy even before he had investigated the situation. Note that God’s mercy is not a response to our repentance. Rather, our repentance is the appropriate response to God’s mercy. It is always available; He waits for us.
I acted out of ignorance (1 Timothy 1:13). How are you forming your conscience? The catechism acknowledges two types of ignorance, that which is our responsibility and that which is not. Certainly, the world with it’s multitude of bad examples of Christianity can lead us astray. For this we are not culpable, unless we have neglected to form our conscience. Paragraph 1785 of the catechism states, “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” In that, note the exclusion of personal thoughts and feelings.
I shall get up and go to my father (Luke 15:18). Hopefully, the entire Gospel was proclaimed at your Mass this past Sunday. So, what is in The Prodigal Son that is not in The Lost Sheep or The Lost Coin? Repentance involves action! Feeling sorrow for our sins is not repentance, because sin isn’t about breaking rules and getting caught. Rather, sin is about damaging our relationship with the One who created us out of His love for us. How do you mend a broken love relationship? You meet the person you’ve hurt face-to-face; tell them that you are sorry, for what you’re sorry, and why you’re sorry; resolve to never hurt them that way again; and trust they will forgive you. This is the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
Catholicism 101. Often non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, will ask where in the Bible it says we have to confess our sins to a priest. Indeed, Jesus imparted to His apostles His own power to forgive sins and the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. First, in establishing His church through Peter, Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Later, in Matthew 18:18, He used the exact same language with all the apostles, thus conferring the same authority upon them. Finally, when Jesus appeared to the apostles in the upper room following the Resurrection, “…he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'” (John 20:22-23). Forgiveness of sins through confession to a priest has always been part of the Church.