Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confession is better than a pig: 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            One of the greatest joys of my priesthood is hearing Confessions.  It is such a humbling privilege to speak the words of Christ to those desiring his love and mercy.
            Many people get nervous when someone mentions Confession, especially if it has been awhile since you have been to the sacrament.  Some might even fear what the priest will think or say if you tell him how long it is been.  I have found that quite the contrary is true.  Not to rate Confessions—they are all miracles of forgiveness—but some of the most powerful Confessions I’ve heard have come from men and women who have stopped in for the first time in years or decades.  Knowing this makes me more inclined to show Jesus’ compassion and mercy.  Don’t be afraid to come.
            In one sense, it is good to feel guilt, shame or nervousness examining the sins in our life—this shows we have a working conscience that wants us to do better.  But in another sense, these feelings may distract us.  What I mean is, overemphasizing such emotions may prevent us from looking at God.  It is helpful to get outside of our own sinfulness to remember God and His infinite mercy, love and compassion.
            That is what our readings are about today.  This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  God is the one who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to search for you.  He leaves the ten coins to search for you.  He is the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son—which could just as well be called the parable of the Merciful Father.  After his son essentially wished his father’s death to get his stuff, left home and squandered the money in a life of dissipation involving prostitutes, where was the father?  He was still on the road.  And when his son had a conversion, the father went out to him.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
            Jim Gaffigan, a comedian, once said that the pig is the greatest recycling program in the world.  You give it an apple and it makes bacon.  You give it garbage and it makes bacon.  Now bacon is objectively the greatest food, but I would disagree with Mr. Gaffigan.  Confession is the greatest recycling program ever.  We give God our worst and He gives us a new slate.  We go in sinners and come out living saints.
As we start a new year of religious education, I want to affirm our youth minister Kevin.  Kevin is one of the best in our diocese and the reason he is so successful is that he leads our children to Jesus, especially in the sacraments.  Each week at The Deep he brings a small group into church so they can receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Our children at school, The Edge and The Deep are great examples of coming frequently to Confession. 
I invite you once more to come to Confession.  Following Mass I will hit the sin-bin, and if you are so moved—especially if it has been a long time—please come to the God who loves you more than you can imagine.

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