Our Gospel reading for this Sunday (today) comes from St. Matthew's Gospel—the best of all—and we hear John the Baptist crying out for people to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The verb “repent” and the noun “repentance” trace their roots back to the Greek word metanoia. Don't ask me how metanoia becomes the word repentance, I'm not a linguistics expert! Metanoia literally means “to think differently after.” In other words, it is a change of mind and heart. Perhaps an image helps us better understand repentance: realizing that the direction I'm traveling is wrong, I turn around and go in the opposite direction. Repentance is turning my life away from vice and sin and back toward Jesus Christ.
Changing our behaviors, desires, and thoughts are part and parcel of repentance. Also part of repentance is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession or Penance. Like the other sacraments, it is an avenue of God's grace and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a profound way. Just as our actions can harm and disrupt our relationships with people, so too, our actions and behaviors can harm, disrupt, and destroy our relationship with God. Because God wishes all people to be saved, He reaches out to us through this sacrament in order to forgive and absolve our sins, to give us strength to resist temptation, and to reconcile and restore our relationship with Him.
Many people may ask why Confession is necessary, why they can't just ask God for mercy and forgiveness directly. Of course, anyone can and should do that in prayer. However, Reconciliation gives us the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins: we hear Christ saying to us through the priest, “I absolve you of your sins.” Additionally, the Letter of James tells us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (5:16).” Reconciliation is about more than restoring our relationship with God; it is also about reconciling us with the Church, the Bride and Body of Christ. St. Paul reminds us that what we do affects each other, no matter how private we think our sins are (1 Cor 12:12-26). We confess our sins to a priest because he stands as representative of God and the Church—helping reconcile us to both.
We will have extra opportunities to meet Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week. On Tuesday, December 10, Confession will be offered at St. Mary of the Snows from 9-11am, 2-4pm, and 6-7:30pm. Confession will be offered at Resurrection on Thursday, December 12 from 9-11am, 2-4pm, and 6-7:30pm. In all sessions, confessions will be heard until all are heard. Further, Confession is still offered at the normal weekend times: 3pm on Saturday at St. Mary of the Snows and 8am on Sunday at Resurrection.
This is a powerful and profound way to prepare our hearts and souls to welcome and receive the newborn Messiah, Jesus Christ, at Christmas. Come, Lord Jesus!
Have a great week!