Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 5: The Dusty Confessional

My associate and I alternate hearing confessions every Saturday afternoon.  Yesterday, since it was the first Saturday of Lent, I went over to help him and noticed he had a big crowd waiting.  We have two confessionals in our chapel.  One we use every week, the other is seldom used except for Penance Services.  So I entered the second smaller confessional and found it very dusty.  So dusty that the chair the people can opt to sit in if they want a face to face confession was full of dust, so I moved it in such a way so that people could only go to confession behind the screen.  The dusty confessional is symbolic of us hiding from God because of our sins.  I’m sure Father Solana and I would love to use both confessionals every Saturday afternoon to hear everyone’s confessions, but the demand right now is only for the use of one.  We can’t hide from our sins like Adam and Eve did in the first reading.  We have to recognize that we are sinners and stand up to the Evil One as Jesus did.  The confessional is where we crush the serpents head and cast him out of our lives like our Lord did at the end of today’s gospel.

Several months ago when being interviewed, Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergolio?”  The Holy Father responded with four simple words, “I am a sinner.”  As we begin Lent, may we begin with the same recognition: we are sinners in need of God’s mercy.  Today’s readings take us in to the heart and darkness of sin for it is the devil himself that tempts Adam in the first reading and then Jesus in the gospel.  One lets sin into the world.  One casts sin out.  Today we are called to recognize that like Adam, we were made in God’s image and likeness, given the breath of life by God himself, formed so delicately in the palm of his hand, and placed on this earth simply to love.  The devil will try to distract us, tempt us, and steer us away from this love.  But how do we react: like Adam or like Jesus? 

Sin has a way of casting a spell over us.  We know we’re not supposed to do something, but we do it anyways.  Sin rears its ugly head in so many ways that are alluring and attractive, and we fall over and over again.  Aren’t we blessed that we have a God who forgives us over and over again?  Sin can take many forms.  It can be an addiction that cripples us like an illness.  It can be a nasty habit that we can’t seem to shake.  It can be something that we may consider benign yet damages our relationship with the Lord.  In whatever way that sin traps us, we must approach it with the determination and the faith that only Jesus Christ can set us free.  If we are victims of addiction, we are powerless.  Only God can deliver us.  If we are trapped in a persistent state of sin, only God can deliver us.  We hear of the temptations of Adam and Jesus, and we are reminded of the last part of the Lord’s Prayer:  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Surrender.  Not to the sin, but to the Savior.  You can’t conquer evil on your own.  You need the Conqueror of sin and death.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can do this on your own: you can’t.  You need God’s mercy. You need the sacrament of reconciliation.  Today the Lord is inviting you to defeat the Evil One and return to this table.  As a pastor, I love seeing my church filled with sheep who gather for the banquet, but I love it even more when my sheep actually participate in the banquet by receiving Holy Communion.  So what’s holding you back?  Do not be ashamed of your sins like Adam and Eve were, rather, stand up to those sins and return to the table of the Lord by going to confession this Lent.  Let’s not let that second confessional collect so much dust from lack of use.