The Importance of Confession
delivered on the Second Sunday of Easter, Year "C"
Father John Lacey
used with permission
A while ago, I was chatting with an older priest who had not been in active ministry for several years. During the course of our conversation, the topic got around to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Father said that we had perhaps 10 years left before the sacrament went completely out of use. It was, in his opinion, only a matter of time before people stopped using the sacrament all together.
I could not agree with him. I think that the Sacrament of Confession is more important today than perhaps at any point in recent memory. We need this Sacrament in our world because we need to acknowledge the reality of who and what we are. We mess up at times, we say and do things that hurt ourselves and hurt others. We are not perfect, but are in need of God's grace in our lives.
Yet, this is not easily admitted by people today, is it? We live in a society and in an age that is not very comfortable with suffering or weakness. Not only are we uncomfortable with personal suffering, for which a multitude of medicines are available, we are also uncomfortable with suffering on the part of others. Sometimes efforts at palliative care can be replaces with talk of euthanasia. Our aversion to fault or weakness even surfaces in our legal system when personal responsibility for our actions is assigned to some larger group who should have warned us or protected us.
Yet is we cannot bring ourselves to admit that we are weak and are not perfect, then we can never hope to experience the help and strengthening grace of God in our lives. Something that is full cannot be added to. Something perfect cannot be improved upon, nor can it be saved or redeemed. I cannot speak for you, but I know in my life it is not in perceived perfection or self-sufficiency that I experience God's grace most powerfully. Rather,it is in the experience of need and vulnerability that God's presence is most powerfully and beautifully met.
We see this in today's Gospel. The milieu in which Jesus preached and in which the disciples continued his mission had much in common with that in which we live today. There were rich people, poor people, sick people, anxious depressed people; people lacking any kind of direction. A creed which offered healing and hope, meaning and assistance, was bound to attract the crowds. This is what Jesus and the disciples discovered. It is interesting to look at each of Jesus' encounters in the Gospels and to examine what it is the person he meets is looking for, and how Jesus meets the need.
In today's Gospel, the disciples are anxious and afraid. They are huddled together; the shadow of the cross lies across their hearts. When Jesus appears in their midst, he addresses their need, wishing their peace. After breathes the Holy Spirit on them, there is a fundamental transformation in their attitude. The shadow of the cross, instead of instilling fear, is suddenly something which fills them with hope. Preaching the cross, they are now preaching not about death, but about a love that is stronger than death. And it is as though when they are strengthened in spirit, they are stronger in body and mind too. As the Acts of the Apostles testifies, they were tireless in preaching the Good News to all.
Jesus attracted, and still attracts, followers from all conditions of life. Then, as now, those who follow him most closely are the poor and the sick, those who are conscious of their need. They look to Jesus for healing and rescue, and for an understanding of a life that seems so hard. Health of spirit, health of body and health of mind area ll precious gifts, and we look to the one who can grant them. Perhaps more precious still is a glimpse of understanding, of knowing what our life is about. Thomas saw the wounds that were evidence of how Christ had died; yet he saw and felt them in the body of the risen Christ. Death had clearly changed. The human body, the human mind and the human spirit could never be the same again.
So, where do we fit into the Gospels? If we were in the crowds trying to see Jesus, or the disciples, what would be we asking for? For healing, forgiveness, meaning inner peace, knowledge, understanding? In many ways, the important ones anyway, we are like the people in the streets hoping that the shadow of Peter will fall across us, making us whole. We are praying that the shadow of the cross, which once meant death and despair, will truly mean to us light and life, safety and peace, healing and hope. We pray now that the shadow of the cross will fall again on our troubled world, reminding us of the tranformation and salvation that are promised to all through the risen Christ.