Monday, April 15, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 7, 2019

This Mon., April 8, at 7 p.m., we will celebrate our Lenten Communal Reconciliation Service. ALL are welcome!
This beautiful sacrament has undergone tremendous change in the long history of the Church. Even in the lifetimes of many alive today, we have seen this sacrament evolve.
When I was a child the sacrament was called “confession” or “penance.” Now we call it “reconciliation.” The change in name is to emphasize who is the important actor in this sacrament. I, the sinner, confess and do the penance; therefore calling it “confession” or “penance” puts the emphasis on what I do. But the most important actor in the sacrament is neither me nor the priest, but God. God is reconciling the world to Godself through Jesus Christ. What God does in the sacrament is much more important that what we do. Our participation in the sacrament is important, but God really does all the heavy lifting and the important work, reconciling us to Godself. So, the name change to “reconciliation” is an attempt to recognize that this is first and foremost God’s work.
Also, when I was a child, the sacrament was performed in a small, dark room often referred to as a “box.” It was rather intimidating and scary. It was not a celebration of God’s reconciling grace but a recognition of my sinfulness. The priest was unseen, just a disembodied voice, and the penitent was also anonymous and unseen. The whole thing was draped in secrecy and anonymity. It was more oppressive than celebratory.
Now at our parish reconciliation service we are encouraged to go face-to-face. This human encounter becomes part of the sacramental expression of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and welcoming us back to God’s embrace. Like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son we heard last Sunday, God is eager and anxious to welcome us, to pardon and to forgive us. This reality is better symbolized and celebrated by the face-to-face encounter in the sacrament that most people will experience in the communal penance service. There will be 6 or 7 confessors and all will have an opportunity to individually confess their sins, and receive individual, personal, absolution and blessing. There is also an opportunity to go behind a screen in the reconciliation chapel for those desiring that.
Soon we will celebrate Holy Week and remember the great gift of salvation Jesus won for us on the cross and His triumphal resurrection on Easter. A very good way to prepare spiritually for this celebration is the sacrament of reconciliation. You are invited and encouraged to join us Mon., April 8, at 7 p.m., right here at St. Austin Church. Hope to see you there.

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