5th Sunday of Lent Year C


     I think most of us would agree that one of the worst things we can experience in our lives is public embarrassment. There is something about having our faults drug into the light for everyone to see which seems to tear us up inside and yet that is precisely what happens in today’s Gospel. That poor woman, who was guilty of adultery and deserved a just punishment but not public shaming, was drug to the holiest location on earth, the temple in Jerusalem, and made to stand before a hostile crowd while her sin was made public to everyone. I have to admit if I were her, I think I would have wanted them to simply stone me and get it over with.

     Fortunately for most of us the only public shame we will have face is what we have documented on social media. Yet the truth is there is often a far worse judge then the people in the world, the judgement of our own guilty conscience. If you are anything like me, often we find the harshest judgement in our own hearts. So often we hold onto all of those stupid things we have done in this life thinking we are not worthy of forgiveness rather than seeking the loving mercy of God. But “guilt without hope in Christ is despair and suicide. Guilt with hope in Christ is mercy and joy.”[1]

     My friends, God is certainly a just judge, but He is also our loving Father and a loving father never accuses his children or holds them in their sinfulness if they are willing to ask for forgiveness. In today’s Gospel, who was the only one who did not accuse the woman? Was it not God Himself? In today’s gospel Jesus stood between the crowd of accusers and the woman to bring her to repentance. My friends Jesus does this for us as well; He stands between us and our sins and says He will take the punishment and ridicule upon Himself on the cross, if only we are willing to hand it over to Him.

     While we may often accuse ourselves, Jesus clearly tells us in today’s Gospel that He does not accuse us. Rather Jesus offers to stand in the gap, to take on our sin upon Himself on the cross and commands us to go and sin no more if only we are willing to offer it to Him in the Sacrament of Confession.

     Personally I find the Sacrament of Confession to be one of the Church’s greatest treasures. As I gaze at Jesus on the cross, I cannot help but realize that God sent His Son into this world to die for me, if only I am willing to come to Him and confess my faults, if only I am willing to let Him stand in for me.  When I go to the Sacrament of Confession, I do just that, I go face to face with God. While yes it is the priest sitting across from me, he is acting in the person of Christ, for on Easter Sunday night Jesus breathed on His apostles and said “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you and when He had said this He breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”[2] Sure we can sit on the couch and tell God we are sorry, but when we come to Confession we have that assurance that our sins our forgiven, because we hear Christ tell us in the person of the priest “I absolve you from your sins.”

     So rather than simply accuse ourselves, why not come and offer our sins to Christ in the Sacrament of Confession and let Him stand in for us, just as He did for the woman in today’s Gospel.  After all what do we have to lose? God does not want to accuse us in the Sacrament of Confession. In fact He allows us to keep our dignity in tact going to confession anonymously behind a screen if we want. The Sacrament of Confession is the one place I can go where I know that what I am saying is never going to be repeated because if any priest reveals what a certain person has said in confession the Pope will remove him from being a priest. While the sacrament can be an emotional experience, if we enter it with a spirit of love and humility it should be a painless and freeing experience.

     I am often asked what it is like to hear confessions. I have to admit it’s pretty normal. You see as I hear confessions I am painfully aware of my own sins. There is nothing that is said that can shock me, in fact the sins most people dread confessing are the same sins that many of us in this Church are struggling with. As a priest I am aware that I am a sinner, in need of confession myself and having experienced God’s mercy in the sacrament, I know that it is my job to bring Christ’s mercy to the world, to say on Christ’s behalf, neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.

     My friends “guilt must not be allowed to fester in the silence of the soul poisoning it from within. It needs to be confessed. Through confessions we bring it into the light, we place it within Christ’s purifying love.”[3] “Confession is nothing but humility in action,”[4] the humility to bring our faults privately to God and to allow Him to stand in for us. Jesus wants to stand in the gap between accusation and freedom. What is preventing you from bringing your sins to Him in the sacrament of confession and hearing him tell you go and sin no more?

[1] Fulton Sheen. The Priest is not his own. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2004. Pg 173.

[2] Jn 20:21-23

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. Pg 74.

[4] Mother Teresa. Total Surrender. Cincinnati : Servant Books, 1985. Pg 100.

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