From the Pastor – October 27, 2013

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Lk 18:11)

I recently heard a quote to the effect that “there are only two types of people in the world: saints who think they are sinners and sinners who think they are saints.” That pretty much sums up the two characters in today’s Gospel. The Pharisee has justified his life, and the Publican has condemned his own. In truth, each of these men was a sinner in some way. As the Evangelist John said: If we say that we have not sinned, then we make God a liar, and His word has no place in our hearts (1 Jn 1:10). So what separates the two men? Simply one fact. One acknowledged the reality of his life and the reality of his sin, and one didn’t. And having recognized the reality of his life, only one man came to God and asked for forgiveness.

So where do we stand between these two in the temple? Have we justified our own conduct? Have we glossed over our sins? That’s obviously a question that we can only answer ourselves. But allow me one observation: Several weeks ago before the Vigil Mass I sat in the Confessional at the back of church for about an hour. And during that time, not one person came to Confession. I did have a couple of visitors who came to say hello, but NOT ONE PERSON came seeking God’s mercy in the Sacrament.

Now, I could look at this on the bright side: Thank God, there are no mortal sinners in the parish! Everyone is upright and worthy of praise! Or I could be cynical about it, and suppose that many are like the Pharisee who has justified his own sinfulness. Or I could be practical and recognize that there are other opportunities for Confession in the area, and many people probably availed themselves of those opportunities.

In truth, I don’t do any of those things. I look at myself. I think “why am I here?” What am I doing sitting in the Confessional if no one needs a priest? Doesn’t anybody want God’s mercy? Maybe I should be doing something else? Do I preach about Confession enough? Am I not making myself available at the right times? What do I need to do to help people recognize their sinfulness; and, more importantly, what can I do to help people receive God’s mercy and forgiveness? Should I offer more occasions for Confession, or fewer ones? What am I doing wrong?

I’ll be honest. I don’t know the answer to those questions. But it is troubling to me. Can you help me out? What am I missing?

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty