From the Pastor – February 21, 2009

In this week’s Gospel we hear a story about Jesus forgiving sins. In the long history of religion, Jesus was the first person to claim that one’s sins can be forgiven by God here on earth. While there is hardly a virtue or moral teaching of Christ that cannot be found in the beautiful writings of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato or Cicero, the idea of forgiving sins on earth was so novel that the scribes called it “blasphemy” – literally speaking evil of God!

Last Sunday, the Holy Father spoke about rediscovering the value of Confession for the forgiveness of sins.  Commenting upon the Gospel reading from last Sunday’s Mass, in which St. Mark recounts Jesus’ miraculous healing of a leper, the Pope explained how “according to ancient Jewish Law leprosy was considered not just as an illness but as the most serious form of ”˜impurity.’ It was the priest’s task to diagnose it and declare as unclean the sick person, who then had to leave the community … until his recovery, if any, a recovery that had to be properly certified. Leprosy, then, constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its cure a sort of resurrection.

“In leprosy,” he added, “we may see a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of the heart and has the power to distance us from God.  It is not in fact the physical sickness of leprosy, as established by the ancient laws, that separates us from Him, but guilt, spiritual and moral evil. … The sins we commit distance us from God and, if not humbly confessed with trust in divine mercy, they go so far as to produce the death of the soul.”Â  The Holy Father then observed how Christ during His Passion “would become as a leper, made unclean by our sins, separated from God: and He would do this for love, in order to obtain reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation for us.”

“In the Sacrament of Penance the crucified and risen Christ, through His ministers, purifies us with His infinite mercy, He restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and sisters, He makes us the gift of His love, His joy and His peace.” Benedict XVI concluded by inviting the faithful “to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Forgiveness, which we must increasingly rediscover today in the value and importance it has for our lives as Christians.”

During Lent, I will hear confessions after the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass until the 10:30 a.m. Mass, and then again after that Mass. May we together rediscover the value of Confession and the forgiveness of sins.