Happy Third Sunday of Advent! How time flies! Anyway, as this is the New Year of the Church I think there is still time to make a New Year’s resolution or two. And I have one that I would like to make for this new year of grace. I want to stop hearing confessions. No more hearing confessions. Period.
That might sound a little radical and over-the-top, but let me tell you how I came to this. A few weeks ago a person who I did not recognize came to me and told me about an encounter he had had recently. In another parish he approached a priest who was vested and waiting to celebrate Mass. He asked the priest if he could hear a quick confession. The priest declined, pointing out that he was ready to start Mass, and then added, somewhat emphatically apparently, that he was busy immediately after Mass and would not be able to hear his confession then either. The disappointed penitent asked me what I thought about this encounter. I’m afraid I disappointed him still further by not agreeing with him that the priest in question was derelict in his duties. Having been there myself I perhaps had more empathy for the priest then the petitioner did. I recommended to the questioner that he say a prayer for this harried priest, but that did not seem to satisfy him. I think he wanted me to assure him that his disappointment and anger at the nameless priest was justified. But I did not do that.
Anyway, this brief encounter did make me think about the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation, and how we have turned it into a situation of quicky confessions. And I really don’t like quicky confessions. However, I really love celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In “confession” we put the emphasis on our confessing. It is about what we do. However, in Reconciliation the emphasis is on God. It is God who is reconciling us to Himself in His Son Jesus. The sacrament is not about us, but about God. And that is not a situation for a hurried, brusque, quick confession.
God does not play games. If we are sorry, God is anxious to forgive us. St Thomas Aquinas teaches us that there are many ways that sins are forgiven: prayer, good works, fasting, almsgiving, and especially reception of the Eucharist to name a few. Reconciliation celebrates what God is always eager and anxious to do.
Next week we will have our Advent Reconciliation Service here on Monday evening, Dec 19. I hope that you will join us. If you cannot, I hope that you will celebrate the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent.
And I will always be happy to celebrate, in an appropriate way, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.