We wash spiritually in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and are filled with Jesus' Light

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

In Vienna in Austria there is a church in which the former ruling family in Austria, the Hapsburgs, are buried. When royal funerals arrived outside the church, the mourners knocked at the door of the church requesting to be allowed in. A priest inside would ask ‘Who is it that desires admission here?’ A guard would call out, ‘His apostolic majesty, the emperor’. The priest would answer, ‘I don’t know him.’ They would knock a second time, and again the priest would ask who it was. The funeral guard outside would announce, ‘The highest emperor.’ A second time the priest would say, ‘I don’t know him.’ A third time they would knock on the door and the priest would ask ‘Who is it?’ The third time the answer would be, ‘A poor sinner, your brother.’

(I found the above story in A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers: And All Who Love Stories That Move and Challenge pp. 326-327 by William J. Bausch and published by Twenty-Third Publications, PO Box 180, Mystic, CT 06355, USA, © 1988, and used here with permission.)

That true story reminds us of the fact that we are all sinners no matter what our rank in society or Church. Perhaps we don’t think of ourselves very often as sinners in need of God’s mercy. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that in the past Catholics believed Our Lady was immaculately conceived but now we believe we are all immaculately conceived. Could I ask you to reflect on your attitude to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Unfortunately sometimes now that sacrament is treated as a joke and joked about. Why would people treat the Sacrament of Reconciliation so flippantly or make it the subject of jokes? Is it because we have forgotten the value of that sacrament? And if we have forgotten the value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that because we have forgotten that we are all sinners even if we pretend otherwise? Is what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said true, that in the past Catholics believed Our Lady was immaculately conceived but now we believe we are all immaculately conceived? Another way of asking that question is “Are we blind to our sinfulness and our need of God’s mercy?”

That mention of being blind reminds me of today’s Gospel (John 9:1-41). Jesus healed the blind man. Every miracle of Jesus is meant to teach us something and this miracle of the healing of the blind man teaches us that Jesus came to cure our spiritual blindness. There were other people in the Gospel who could see yet they were spiritually blind. They were the Pharisees. I would like us to ask ourselves is it possible that we may have a blind spot with regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and our need of God’s mercy? During this season of Lent may I suggest that we go to the Pool of Siloam to wash our spiritual eyes so that we can see again what the Lord’s call to each of us is. I would like to recommend you to receive the sacrament once a month.

I am firmly convinced that we have no idea of the enormous graces God gives us when we receive the sacrament. One way I like to think about it is that as we confess our sins the blood of Jesus flows over us from Calvary and cleanses us. We believe that during Mass Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is extended through time to us and in the same way when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that forgiveness is flowing to us from Calvary. I believe that in the sacrament we receive not only forgiveness but strength for living the Christian life. This is what Jesus said to St. Faustina about the Sacrament of Reconciliation,

“There the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated. It suffices to come with faith to the feet of my representative and to reveal to him one’s misery and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. When you go to confession, know this, that I myself am waiting for you in the confessional; I am only hidden by the priest, but myself act in the soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great there is no limit to my generosity.”

Jesus also said to St. Faustina the greater the sinner the greater the mercy.

“Summon all those to confidence in the incomprehensible depth of my mercy for I desire to save all. The well of mercy was opened wide with a lance on the cross for all souls. I do not exclude anyone.”

Jesus said,

“Tell ailing mankind to draw close to my merciful heart and I will fill them with peace. Mankind will not find consolation until it turns with confidence to my mercy and love.”

Jesus also said,

“I desire the confidence of my people. Let not even the weak and very sinful fear to approach me, even if their sins be as numerous as all the sand of the earth all will be forgiven in the fathomless pit of my mercy.”

When we receive the sacrament what we heard in our second reading is true of us,

“You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discern what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness.” (Eph 5:8-11)

When the funeral of the ruling family in Austria arrived at the church at the third knock the priest would call out again, Once again ‘Who is it?’ The third time the answer would be, ‘A poor sinner, your brother.’ Have we a blind spot with regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If we have, we are missing out on huge, huge graces. This Lent is an opportunity for us to go to the Pool of Siloam to wash and be filled with the light of Jesus who is the light of the world.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More Homilies for the Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

Jesus touches you when you receive the sacraments 2008

We have washed in the Siloam of Baptism and we believe in Jesus 2014

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