Thursday, September 1, 2016

Recovering the sacrament

Over time we have seen a drop in those making use of the confessional. In today's gospel we are told:

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

We all know that we teach best by example and yet whether motivated by fear or hubris, many of us who share in the teaching office of the church don't talk about our own sinfulness and recourse to the sacrament.

For myself I go to confession minimally once a month. Chapter V of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution of the Church addresses the universal call to holiness. It seems to me that at least once a month any of us needs to stop and take stock of the ways in which we fall short of the goal. We need to name it in a very specific way. The first step to reconciliation is contrition, sadness for the sin we commit. We can only feel sadness when we acknowledge how far we are from what our loving Father as called us to be.

In the gospel Peter tells Jesus to depart from him because he is a sinful man. But we know that Jesus does not depart from him, nor will he depart from us. On the contrary, when we acknowledge our sinfulness Jesus draws closer to us. The forgiveness God offers is not the human "I forgive you, but..." When we have the courage to receive the sacrament, we know that we receive complete forgiveness.

Back in 2013 at the beginning of his Pontificate Pope Francis said, 

"'Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" "I am a sinner. This the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner." 

While there may be a few in the Church who would prefer to imagine clergy and religious as somehow holier than the rest, one need only read any of those we call saints and discover that they were profoundly aware of their own sinfulness.

The end of the Year of Mercy will be here sooner than we think. So before it ends, perhaps we all need to each the words of St. Peter and Pope Francis. Before we talk anymore about the failings of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence or Tim Kaine; perhaps we need to focus on our own. Such is the road to conversion, the road to holiness.