Here is a recording of the homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, year C, at the 9 AM Mass on March 22, 2010.
Homily for Sunday V of Lent
Here is a written summary of this homily:
Since the Second Vatican Council, there has been and increase in people receiving Holy Communion. It seems that almost everyone in the congregation who has made their first Holy Communion comes forward to receive. However, since the mid-sixties, there has been a decline in those going to the sacrament of Confession. This seems odd, since going to Confession makes us better prepared to receive Holy Communion. Therefore, if people are receiving Holy Communion more often, they should also be going the the sacrament of Confession more often. Sadly, this is not the case. Why is there a decline in the use of this sacrament?
There can be many reasons for this. Are our consciences becoming dulled? Are we becoming complacent regarding sin. Are we less sensitive toward God, taking his mercy and forgiveness for granted? Or do we think that we cannot possibly offend God since we are not doing the terribly bad things that others do like stealing, cheating, lying, committing adultery, etc.
Fr. Larre, in speaking to the priests of our diocese, thinks one of the reasons for fewer people going to Confession is that they do not know the difference between the act of contrition and the sacrament of Confession. An act of contrition is a prayer to God in which we tell Him we are sorry for our sins out of love for Him, and that we promise, with the help of his grace, to do our best not to sin again. It is a good prayer and one that we should pray every night before we go to sleep. However, as good a prayer as it is, making an act of contrition is not the same as going to Confession, nor does it have the same effects.
First let us recall what is a sacrament. There are seven of them, and they all have three things in common. They include an outward sign, they were instituted by Christ himself, and through them we receive from Christ his grace. This grace makes us share in the very life of God. Now the reason there are seven sacraments, and not just one, is that each of them are geared toward a special aspect of our life and the life of the Church. For instance, the grace received in the sacrament of Marriage not only unites the man and the woman, but it also enables them to be good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. In the sacrament of Holy Orders, a man becomes a priest and the grace he receives make it possible for him be a good priest.
Of what special help is the grace received in the sacrament of Confession. We know that in the sacrament our sins are forgiven. The grace received deepens our relationship with God. It brings peace between the penitent and God and the penitent and the Church, the Body of Christ. This grace also heals the damage to the soul left behind by sins. It also strengthens us to resist temptation in the future. And, if we a guilty of mortal sin, whereby we lose sanctifying grace, and are no longer in the state of grace, the grace received in Confession restore us to life so that we once again share in God’s own life and are brought back into the state of grace.
One of the consequences of falling from the state of grace, is that we cannot receive Holy Communion again until we have confessed our mortal sins in Confession. If we do receive Our Lord in this state, Holy Communion will do us no good, In fact, not being in the state of grace and receiving the Sacred Host is worse since it would be s sacrilege. Saint Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, among whom there was a serious problem in this regard, says: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Corinthians 11.27-29).
Some people have stopped going to Confession because of an unpleasant experience in the past. The priest could have been too harsh or blunt. However, we cannot let that make us abandon this great sacrament. There are plenty of other priests that we can go to who will show us the compassion of Christ.
Sometimes people stop going to the sacrament because they feel that they have not, or cannot, forgive someone from their past. They want to forgive, but they still feel ill will towards that person, and think that they cannot go to Confession until they have no more bad feelings towards the offending person. However, we have to remember that forgiveness is primarily an act of the will. If in your mind you desire and decide to forgive someone, you have indeed forgiven them, even if you still have in your heart bad feeling towards them, feelings you wish were not there. Those unwanted bad feelings against the forgiven person are part of the wounds left behind by sin. Just as physical wounds don’t heal instantly, so too, these spiritual wounds take time to heal. If the Lord allows these to remain, it could be that He wants us to continue praying for healing. We need to also remember that Confession is a sacrament of healing — spiritual healing — and it also has a role to play in helping us overcome the wounds left behind even by sins already forgiven.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to increase within us the desire for a deeper union with God. May He inspire us to use the sacrament of Confession more frequently. Once an month is not too often. Let Him continue working our ongoing transformation in Christ that he works in Confession as He prepares us to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion ever more worthily.