Pastor's Corner 031013

posted Mar 6, 2013, 8:43 AM by Music Director

Now that we have reached the midpoint of the Lenten season, we begin to look to the Church’s greatest feast, that of our Lord’s Resurrection.  For this reason, the 4th Sunday of Lent is traditionally known as “Laetare Sunday” from the Latin word for joy or happiness.  As on “Gaudete Sunday,” the midpoint of Advent, violet is replaced with shades of pink or rose to express our joy as we look forward to Easter. 

Preparations for celebrating this highest and holiest of holy days are certainly well under way in several quarters, such as Easter parades, egg hunts, & family gatherings, not to mention the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week.  Most especially are the preparations we as Christians undertake both as part of our response to Lent’s call for spiritual renewal as well as our anticipation of Easter.

Of all the things we do to prepare, perhaps the most important is sacramental absolution of our sins.  That we are all sinners is a given; that our continual need for the Lord’s forgiveness is likewise.  What is not a given is how we respond to this.  So often I hear the lament, “Why do I have to confess?”or the bold declaration, “I don’t need to do that.”  Oh really?  Says who?  Certainly not the Church; but more importantly, not Jesus! 

In the Gospel according to Matthew 16:19 Our Lord tells Peter that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Our understanding is that this address is not meant for Peter alone; Peter is seen as the representative of all believers in Jesus.  Thus, this address to Peter is meant for the entire Church.  Furthermore, in the Gospel of John 20:23 Jesus tells His Apostles “whose sins you shall forgive, they shall be forgiven; whose sins you hold bound, they shall be held bound.”  This is an even clearer declaration that Jesus gives to His Church the authority and power to forgive sins.

But why is actual confession necessary?  The answer is given in the Letter of James 5: 16:  “Hence, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may find healing.”  And this is what early Christians did.  Whenever they gathered to celebrate Eucharist, they would first take turns confessing their sins to each other, and receive from each other words of forgiveness, encouragement, etc., because they recognized that whenever they gathered in Jesus’ name He was there in their midst, working through them to continue His ministry; and one of the many components of that ministry is the forgiveness of sins.  (The remnant of this practice is found in the Penitential Rite that occurs at the beginning of Mass.)

Of course, as time went on and the Church grew in numbers, the faithful no longer felt comfortable confessing their sins to the entire assembly, a practice that could take several hours!  (Would any one of us care to get up in front of the entire congregation some Sunday morning and confess our sins?)  They petitioned their Overseers (“episcopoi” in Greek, rendered “bishops” in English) to represent the community and be the voice of Jesus, making confession and absolution of sin a private experience. 

The Overseers later extended this ministry to the Presbyters, their council of advisors who would eventually become known as “priests” for sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ once the overseers extended to them the authority to lead the assembly in the offering of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

You have several opportunities for sacramental confession and absolution.  There is the regular period on Saturday afternoons from 3:00-4:00.  You can make an appointment with any priest (recommended if you have a serious issue you need to discuss at length).  Several periods have been set aside for our Religious Education children as well as those who attend Our Lady of Hope Regional School.  We also have an evening Penance Service each Advent and Lent, with our next one taking place on Wednesday March 20 at 7:30 PM.

Confession may not be the most pleasant thing in the world, but it is one of the most freeing.  Our Lord wishes to touch us in a way we can truly perceive, in a real human way, in a way that cannot be achieved in the privacy of one’s thoughts.  It is said, “Confession is good for the soul.”  We can add mind, heart and spirit to that list.  Only a fool would claim to be Christian and not take advantage of this opportunity for true, inner healing.  What better way to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death than to receive one of the most precious gifts He came to bring?  God bless you!

 

In His love,

Fr. Mike

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