Homily for Sept. 9th, 2016: Luke 6:39-42.
Have you ever thought about how much easier it would be to prepare a list of sins for someone else to confess – especially if that other person was someone of whom you’re highly critical – than to list all your own sins? That would be much easier, wouldn’t it?
That’s what Jesus is talking about when he says in today’s gospel: “You notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own.” He is warning us about something we’re all guilty of at times: being alert for even small faults and sins in others, while overlooking much more serious sins of our own.
The Lord has given us the remedy for those sins: the sacrament of penance, or confession. One advantage of sacramental confession is that it forces us to confront our own particular sins, not to be content with simply confessing that we are sinners in general. And in confession the priest has an opportunity to help us with our own particular sins and difficulties. So many people today feel that they’re “just a number.” In confession we’re not just a number. The priest is there for you personally, as a unique individual. But first you must come.
Speaking for myself, I can tell you that without the sacrament of penance, or confession, I would not be a priest today. What a relief it was in the difficult years of adolescence – and more than a relief, a deep joy – to be able to go to a priest, tell him my sins, hear the words which assured me of God’s forgiveness; and then the beautiful closing words: “Go in peace, the Lord has put away all your sins.” Those words touched me so deeply that I still say them today, at the close of every confession I hear.
Many Catholics think of Confession as something like going to the dentist: something we don’t particularly like, which will probably hurt, but which we know is good for us; and afterwards we’ll feel better. In reality, the sacrament of penance or reconciliation is so much more. It is a personal encounter with One who loves us beyond our imagining – as intimate as receiving the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. In Confession we receive, along with forgiveness, the love of the One who is love himself: Jesus Christ.