I want to begin by thanking everyone who either helped out at last week's Ministry Fair in Mercy Hall. Thanks also to those who stopped by to learn more about what goes on in our parish. The attendance varied a great deal between the Masses – and it would have been even nicer to see a few more people there. But those I spoke to at the Fair seemed to enjoy it. I know that several families got information about CCD, some new parishioners met new friends in our parish, and some folks who visited after the Spanish Mass spoke with the Food for the Needy representative about how they could get more involved as a group in that and other ministries to the local poor. I was happy to hear that!
We're in the middle of Lent, and we all know that Lent is time for Confession. Pope Francis is a big proponent of Confession, as a means of experiencing God's mercy and growing in holiness and charity. Below are some questions and answers from an interview he gave about Confession.
Why do we have to go to Confession? "When I go to Confession, it is in order to be healed - to heal my soul, to heal my heart, and to be healed of some wrongdoing."
But why do we have to Confess to a priest? "First, forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked of another, and in Confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus."
Then why can't I just ask Jesus privately to forgive my sins – without going to a priest in Confession? "Because our sins are committed not only against God, but also against our brothers and sisters and against the Church. That is why it is necessary to ask pardon of the Church in the person of the priest."
But I feel ashamed when I tell my sins to the priest. Why would Jesus want me to feel ashamed? "It is healthy to feel a little shame. When a person feels no shame, we say they are "shameless". Shame does some good because it makes us more humble.
Reflecting on the pope's words, I think his comment about our sins affecting not only God, but also our neighbors and the Church are especially important. Many of our sins are committed against other people (lies, gossip, anger, impatience, etc. – not to mention the good deeds we don't do for others). All of our sins weaken the Church – because the Church is ultimately the sum total of her members. When one of us sins, the Church is less holy. Just as each of our good works builds up the Church, each of our sins weakens her. Hence the priest, representing not only Christ, but also His Church, forgives us in the name of God and His Church.
With all this in mind, be sure to go to Confession this Lent. There are pamphlets about Confession around the Church. These not only tell you what to do in Confession, but also offer a good Examination of Conscience to help you prepare for Confession. I will also put an examination of conscience in next week's bulletin, to help you prepare for the Penance Service on Monday, March 12. If it's been a while since you've been to Confession and you aren't sure what to do, just ask me and I'll be happy to help you. I'm sure any of
our priests would say the same thing.
Please say a Hail Mary for me today and every day – and be assured of my prayers for you.