From the Pastor – July 17, 2011

You, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you. Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my pleading. (Ps. 85:5-6)

The Gospel for this 16th Sunday in Ordinary time is the parable from Matthew 13 about the field sown with good and bad seed. We might have heard the expression “bad seed” as referring to someone who came from a “bad family.” While it’s true that one’s environment can have a serious effect on our personalities, attitudes and habits, the Church teaches that we are all God’s children. You might also hear the expression that someone is “beyond redemption.” This expression is contrary to Catholic doctrine. The catechism teaches that “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.” (605).

In other words, no one is beyond redemption. No sin, however terrible, is beyond God’s power to forgive. Since the time of Jesus, the Church has declared many men and women to be “saints.” But never in the history has the Church declared that anyone has been condemned to hell – not Pontius Pilate, not Judas, not Hitler, not Stalin, not Mao. So nobody goes to hell? No, that’s not true. Jesus said that some go to Eternal Damnation. But who?

Jesus gives us a clue one chapter back in Matthew’s Gospel: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” What is “blasphemy against the Spirit”? The catechism says “there are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept His mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.” (1864)

So the moral is that God has unlimited mercy, but we have to seek it. We practice seeking it each time we attend Mass and “call to mind our sins” so that we might “prepare to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.” And then we say “Lord, have Mercy.” But if our sins are mortal sins, we need to seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. But if we have what we consider “terrible sins,” we might be afraid to reveal them. “You must hear some ”˜terrible things’ in the confession, Monsignor,” I’ve sometimes been asked. And I don’t reply. But I do say this, “you know, the confessional is to sin what a car wash is to dirt. Have you ever gone up to a guy running a car wash and asked him about the dirt he’s cleaned? He’d just laugh at you: ”˜The machine just washes it down the drain. We don’t save it; it’s just gone!’” That’s what happens in Confession. When we seek mercy from Jesus, He gives it to us. Our souls are clean, and the sin is just gone. I am always available for Confession, and I’m in the confessional on Saturdays (3:00pm – 3:45pm) and Sundays (9:30am – 10:15am).

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty