Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Saint Paul reminded the Galatians, what makes a person righteous is faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ means living in the way he lived, being faithful to his oneness with his Father that he demonstrated so clearly and carefully.
The words, “I am sorry”, have an incredible potential to transform us and yet they do not come easily to our tongue. “I am sorry” challenges us because we thereby admit imperfection. They admit weakness or failure, the fact that I am capable of wrongdoing or hurting others’ feelings, reputation and happiness. “I am sorry” admits that I am a work in progress. Those three words may choke in my throat because they say that I am in need.
Yet it was David who said to Nathan: “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan reminded him: “The Lord for his part forgives your sin, you are not to die.” We live in faith in the Son of God who loved us and sacrificed himself for us. So too in the Gospel the Lord by his words, “Your sins are forgiven”, for the woman enabled her to find peace, linked to faith.
Seldom these days do we hear much about the reality of sin. Mortal sin cuts us off from the life of God and if we remain unrepentant, then we will be separated from God for all eternity. Mortal sin is the choice in a serious matter (outlined by God’s Commandments or by his Church) from the life and truth of God. It is a big choice for ourself and against God. It is a big denial of faith in God, who sent his only Son to die and rise that we might be forgiven. If we are in mortal sin this is why we cannot receive Holy Communion without first receiving the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation.
Like the woman in the Gospel who met with Jesus, we too come to the priest to receive the forgiveness that only Jesus can give. On the evening of Easter Jesus gave us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation because the new life of grace, which we received in Baptism, does not take away the weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin. So Christ gave this sacrament that we would be converted and be no longer separated from him.
The confession of lesser venial sins is strongly recommended because it helps us to form a correct conscience and fight against our tendency to evil. It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life of the Spirit. An individual, personal meeting with the priest means that Jesus through him acknowledges our need of forgiveness and brings us to the peace that only he can give.
It is true that God first loved us and sent his Son to take away our sins. Let us not be restrained by the fear of having to admit that we are sinners, but rather drawn on by the grace and peace that the good use of confession can bring to our life, so that we will walk with Christ and in the midst of our struggles find the life of God. We not only pray in the Psalm, “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done”, but we know that forgiveness is a reality in that great sacrament. Just as Jesus said to the woman: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”, so he offers us this opportunity in the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.