Dear Sacred Heart Family
This week we will have our communal penance service (Thursday 7pm). I am always humbled when someone comes to this sacrament after being away from it for 10,20, or 40 years. If this is you, I would share one thought, the same one Jesus said time and time again, “do not be afraid.” Many people are trapped by guilt and/or shame for their past or fears of being judged but God (and us priests) have only one thought- God is filled with joy for your return just as the father of the prodigal son received him with great joy. If you are worried you don’t remember what to do, “fear not” as we will help you through the whole process.
Many Catholics are unaware that the Church asks us to go to confession at least once a year, what we have called “the Easter duty” to prepare ourselves for our greatest day, Easter. Whereas you may not have committed any serious sins (murder/abortion, adultery/fornication, or denying God), it is still helpful in the spiritual life to spend some time reflecting on what ways you have hurt others and God. The simple act of reflection on our sins helps us to do better in the future.
There are three ways to prepare for this event. First is to look over if you have broken any of the 10 commandments, which is the most common way to prepare for this sacrament. Second, is to ask, “Have I broken Jesus two commandments to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself?” Lastly, this Sunday’s Gospel is another way to prepare.
In this gospel the woman caught in adultery is led by the rabid crowd ready to stone her. We know Jesus’ response “let the first without sin cast the first stone… [and] neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” On one side we have sinners who are ready to be judge, trial, and jury; Jesus reminds them, none of us have that right. Have I joined with crowds to condemn someone for their sins? Have I ganged up on a sibling for something they have done wrong? Then it is likely I need to use this sacrament. For any of us to have received God’s forgiveness and not be willing to give it to others, is sin in itself.
On the other side of this story, “Do I have a sin that I keep doing, that I don’t want to repent because I don’t want to hear “go and sin no more?” Sometimes we need to remember the frequency of a sin can make it more serious- judging, criticizing, gossiping, or lying. Others see no need to repent for a sin they will just commit again, but every moment of repentance brings a fresh start, even if we will fall again.
As we draw closer to Holy Week, let the fruits of our penances (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) draw us closer to walk with Jesus and hand Him the sins he took on so that we might truly rise in the freedom of new life this Easter.
With a heart for Mission,