24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Some of you may be old enough to remember the days when people went to confession at least monthly if not weekly. It didn’t matter if you were conscious of mortal sin. You must have done something wrong and you better go.
This might fit with the image in our first reading. The people had committed a great sin by making a golden calf idol. They clearly broke the commandment against idolatry and they deserved to be punished. God was going to lay his wrath against them. This image here is of God as a punishing God. So, we better go to confession or else.
Today’s gospel includes the story of the Prodigal Son. It is a favorite story to many. The image portrayed of the father is not a punishing father. His younger son has taken a share of the inheritance and left, leaving the father behind. In the culture of the time, the father had every right to disown his younger son for this but this father does not. He still loves his son.
Even though his son has lived a bad life, the father is eager to welcome him back. So much so that as the son arrives, the father runs out to greet him, throws a celebration, and restores the full status to his younger son.
Which image do you prefer? Do the idea of a God who punishes inspire you in any way? Or would you rather God fit the image of the father who runs out to greet his son and forgive him?
God does not want to punish us. Even though the Israelites have sinned by making the golden calf, God relents of punishment through Moses’ intercession. It didn’t take much effort on Moses’ part because God wants to forgive us.
What is your image of Confession?
Do you fear going to confession? Are you afraid of God’s wrath?
When we see someone going to confession, do we “speculate” about seeing them go into the confession? What did they do? Or do we celebrate that the person has repented? While sin is bad, when one repents, it is time to rejoice.
Yet people do not rejoice. In fact, many don’t go at all. The pendulum has swung from weekly or monthly confession to the other extreme. We think confession is outdated or we think we don’t do anything that bad.
There is no right length of time before we need to go to confession. If we commit mortal sin, then we should go.
Confession may seem like something we want to avoid because we don’t want others to know our sins. We should try to avoid needing to go to confession, meaning we shouldn’t sin but when we do sin, we should go to confession.
We should not fear going to confession for it is God’s gift to us. It is a gift we need.
To understand it as a gift, we should take a look at the names we give it.
Confession is probably the most common name. The name does fit because we are confessing our sins. However, God already knows our sins. We confess them out loud to admit we have sinned and need God’s help. While confession is a necessary part of the sacrament, the act of confessing is one part of the sacrament.
Another name for this sacrament is penance. After we confess our sins, the priest answers us a penance to do. The penance is to show our remorse and our desire to sin no more with God’s help. This represents a third part of the sacrament, contrition, which is the sorrow in our hearts for our sin.
Another name for this sacrament is reconciliation. This is what we come for. Our mortal sins have separated us from God. Our venial sins have distanced us from God. We want to change that but we cannot make this happen on our own. We need the fourth part of the sacrament, absolution, to reconcile us.
Reconciliation is the name I like because it is the purpose of the sacrament. It is the gift we receive in the sacrament. We need to move from dreading confession to rejoicing that God makes reconciliation possible.
I feel privileged to be able to be the priest as people come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I want you to experience God’s mercy. It’s why I sit in the “box” for an hour on Saturday. If you can’t make it on Saturday afternoon, you can make an appointment. If you want to remain anonymous you can call and make an appointment without giving your name and I will meet you in the church.
God wants to forgive us but first we need to admit our faults and return to the Father like the prodigal son.