Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"The soothing joy of God's forgiveness"

The following are excerpts from a recent address which Pope Benedict XVI gave on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just as the Papal preacher’s Palm Sunday homily affirmed the past comments of one anonymous blogger about faith, so the words of the Holy Father stress some of my points about Confession, albeit much more profoundly!

…It is necessary today to assist those who confess to experience that divine tenderness to repentant sinners which many Gospel episodes portray with tones of deep feeling.

Let us take, for example, the passage in Luke's Gospel that presents the woman who was a sinner and was forgiven (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Simon, a Pharisee and a rich dignitary of the town, was holding a banquet at his home in honour of Jesus. In accordance with a custom of that time, the meal was eaten with the doors left open, for in this way the fame and prestige of the homeowner was increased. All at once, an uninvited and unexpected guest entered from the back of the room: a well-known prostitute.

One can understand the embarrassment of those present, which did not seem, however, to bother the woman. She came forward and somewhat furtively stopped at Jesus' feet. She had heard his words of pardon and hope for all, even prostitutes; she was moved and stayed where she was in silence. She bathed Jesus' feet with tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with fragrant ointment.

By so doing, the sinner woman wanted to express her love for and gratitude to the Lord with gestures that were familiar to her, although they were censured by society.

Amid the general embarrassment, it was Jesus himself who saved the situation: "Simon, I have something to say to you". "What is it, Teacher?", the master of the house asked him. We all know Jesus' answer with a parable which we can sum up in the following words which the Lord addressed basically to Simon: "You see? This woman knows she is a sinner; yet prompted by love, she is asking for understanding and forgiveness. You, on the other hand, presume yourself to be righteous and are perhaps convinced that you have nothing serious for which to be forgiven".

The message that shines out from this Gospel passage is eloquent: God forgives all to those who love much. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their ego and their heart is hardened in sin.

Those, on the other hand, who recognize that they are weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and obtain from him grace and forgiveness.

It is precisely this message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognized and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness.

…If this constant desire is absent, the celebration of the Sacrament unfortunately risks becoming something formal that has no effect on the fabric of daily life.

If, moreover, even when one is motivated by the desire to follow Jesus one does not go regularly to confession, one risks gradually slowing his or her spiritual pace to the point of increasingly weakening and ultimately perhaps even exhausting it…


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can unbelief be a sin?

At 6:03 PM, Blogger fran said...

Catechism of Catholic Church

" Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith" as our first obligation. He shows that "ignorance of God" is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and bear witness to him."

"The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it."

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand the question- unbelief in what specifically? Unbelief in the fact that there is a God, unbelief in the fact that Jesus is His only Son, unbelief in something else?
To what are you referring?

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant unbelief in anything divine. Like the person who thinks that all we have is the physical world around us.

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Maryann said...

There is a rather long but interesting article on: http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/5628/0161.html It's titled: When Unbelief is Right, by Ray C. Stedman. I don't know if this will shed some light on your question, but it is a viewpoint that offers some thoughts to ponder. I believe he has other articles on unbelief, but I did not read them.

"Anyone who knows anything at all about Christianity knows that it puts great stress upon believing. Not believing myths and legends, as many seem to think, but believing facts. Faith is not a way of convincing yourself that something is true when you know it is not, as someone has defined it, but faith is believing something that is true. In order to be a Christian you must be a believer, because from faith comes life, strength, peace, and joy, and all else that the Christian life offers.
But, that being true, it is equally true that every Christian is also called to be an unbeliever. There is a time when unbelief is the right thing and the only right thing. The very same Scriptures which encourage us to believe likewise urge us not to believe. In fact, they not only urge us, they command us not to believe. This is no contradiction, any more than to say that in order to live it is necessary both to inhale and to exhale. These are contradictory things: You cannot inhale and exhale at the same time, but both are absolutely necessary to maintaining life. You cannot inhale unless you exhale, and you cannot exhale unless you have inhaled..."

At 7:01 AM, Blogger fran said...

A note of gratitude to all priests, especially our very own Msgr Mellone and Father Greg, today, the commemoration of the Institution of Holy Orders.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger fran said...

Today's bible passage and reflection from "Every Day is a Gift" -

" In the beginning... God created the heavens and the earth." -Gn 1:1

"The enigmas contained in the physical universe postulate and indicate the existence of an infinitely superior Spirit.
This divine Spirit creates, conserves, governs, and consequently knows and scrutinizes in a supreme intuition - today as at the dawn of the first day creation - all that exists."
-Pope Pius XII

This, when combined with the instruction of the Church (as posted previously) might provide additional insight regarding unbelief as a sin.


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