Third Sunday of Lent

REVISED ORDER OF PENANCE. Part 3 of my miniseries on the revised ‘Order of Penance’ addresses the common question: “Why do I need to confess my sins?” of which there are innumerable variations. Some are: “Why must I confess to a Priest?” “Why can’t I pray to God directly or choose my own penance?” While Confession is only mandatory for those guilty of serious, grave or mortal sins, it may be most helpful for those struggling with habitual sins … and those trying to rise above ordinary temptations or venial sins.

HOW IS SIN CONQUERED & FORGIVEN? As I noted last week, sin was first ‘attacked’ through the Prophets; then it was conquered, along with death, most exceptionally, through our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Christ then enabled the graces He won for us by His Paschal Mystery to be channeled into the world through the Apostles and their successors. Now, and until Christ’s return in glory, God’s grace comes to us primarily through the Sacraments.

BAPTISM. As we profess in the Nicene Creed, “we confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins” by which our old self is crucified with Christ, and we become a new creation. By entering the waters of rebirth, we are washed clean of all sin, and freed from slavery to sin as were our ancestors, who passed dry-shod through the Red Sea waters. Then, risen with Christ, we must strive to continually live for God and in loving service to others – but this is only a beginning!

EUCHARIST. To help us ‘stay the course,’ we are regularly invited to the Table of the Lord to be nourished, as newborns feed off their mothers, by the Body and Blood of Christ. By receiving His Body handed over for us and His Blood poured out for us, made present through the sacred mysteries, we are empowered to live our new life in Christ. We are also aided by the Seven Gifts of Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord, which we receive in Confirmation. However, even all this is not enough to keep us free from sin and in God’s good graces.

THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE. In one of the most beautiful lines ever written about the need and purpose of Confession, this one-liner from Saint Ambrose [339-397] sums it up perfectly: we Christians are blessed to have “both water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of Penance.” For although we are washed clean of sin in Baptism, we do not stay clean of sin. In a world of so many temptations, from which Jesus was not, nor are we, exempt, we are likely to fall into sin unlike Jesus, who never sinned. However, since Jesus was tempted, He knows the debilitating, ferocious power of the Evil One and our probability of succumbing to the Devil’s wiles, so He gave us a means by which we can be restored to Baptismal grace: Confession.

HOW WE SHED THE ‘TEARS OF PENANCE.’ We begin most Masses with a Penitential Act or the Rite of Sprinkling, both of which purge us of our everyday, venial sins. We are washed clean of these ‘lesser’ sins by our works of charity, by fasting, through prayer, and by all other selfimposed penances. Our communal admissions of sinfulness, which we often do in the Psalms we sing or recite, and in many Chants and Hymns,
which express our remorse and contrition, attain divine forgiveness for our non-mortal sins.

PERSONAL PREPARATION FOR PENANCE. In the end, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” [2 Corinthians 5:10] So, it is crucial that each one of us meticulously examines his or her own conscience, does penance, performs works of charity, makes amends, and prays for mercy … before it’s too late! That’s why in the Church’s liturgy, she often refers to our sinful nature, has us acknowledge our sinfulness, and beseechs the Lord’s mercy … not to put us down, but to raise us up!

LENTEN CONFESSIONS. In the grace-filled time of Lent, we are strongly directed to offer the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, as we will do in two weeks: Sunday, March 26, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm with several Priests available for Confession; see the Examination of Conscience in today’s bulletin.

With God’s love and my prayers,

Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS