Today’s readings may be found here.
You can listen to this homily being delivered here.
Brothers and sisters, I am sure it is no great surprise to you, but I have many faults. There is an ugly side to me which I detest. I have an ego that can fill a room. I do not listen to others well because I know everything. I can be flippant and matter-of-fact in talking to others and condescending. I am all too quick to anger and I can be vicious in arguments. And, I do know the list goes on. If I have hurt any of you through any of these actions, or in any other way through actions I have not named, I am truly sorry. I know that my sins affect others and can really hurt other people. And I always wonder why God has called me to be a priest with all of these failings. St. Paul says in the letter to the Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” St. Paul nailed it.
I read an article the other night about suggestions of what to give up for Lent. But, the article also gave seven reasons WHY we should give up something. The last reason hit me right between the eyes: The reason for giving something up for Lent is that when we fail, we recognize that we are in need of redemption. I think that is a lesson that goes beyond just fasting but to all of our sins and sinfulness — that when we fail, we recognize that we are not God, we are not always in control of ourselves, and we are not Our Savior, Jesus Christ is. We do the things we normally hate when we think we are God. And yet, we do it anyway. We need to be reminded that we are not the Savior. I think I need to be reminded of this most of all.
In the Gospel today, Jesus told us that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees would check the boxes and follow the letter of the commandments, but would never see the inner reality and sinfulness leading underlying the sin — that for instance, underneath murder there was anger. We owe it to ourselves to look at ourselves and to look at what we do.
I shared with you that earlier list of my faults because I know I need to make amends. Sins hurt God, others, and ourselves. My sins hurt God and others and therefore hurt myself as well because I end up doing things I hate and preach to others about. And so, I need to make amends with God and with anyone whom I have hurt. And I want to make those amends because I want to follow what Jesus has taught us.
People often say: “I don’t need to go to Confession — it’s not like I killed anybody.” But, Jesus says anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Brothers and sisters, we really need to think about this part of our faith lives. Do we need to go to confession? The answer is yes.
First, confession makes us state our sins out loud. The very act of speaking them makes us hear them. But, in another way, it puts them outside of ourselves to be dealt with. Second, confession allows us to recognize that we are not the only ones who sin. We can get very down on ourselves when we realize our faults and sins. But when we go and speak with a Priest, we know he is there because we are NOT the only sinner. Third, the Priest can give us encouragement and advice that will help us. When I hear confessions, I truly don’t know where the words come from sometimes. At those times, I know the power of Confession is real because I know it is not me, the Priest doing it, but indeed it is Jesus Christ speaking to the person in front of me. Fourth, and most important, Jesus Christ absolves our sins and gives us the grace to try again not to sin. When we approach someone whom we have hurt and ask forgiveness, and when they say that they forgive us, it brings us comfort, doesn’t it? Well, every sin offends God as well, and we need to know we are forgiven, otherwise we become hardened in our sins.
This upcoming Lent, which begins in a week and a half on Ash Wednesday, February 26th, we will be offering here at Guardian Angel, more opportunities to seek the Sacrament of Confession. Please consider what I have said and make time for Confession, especially if you have not been in a while. And if you are worried about coming here to seek the Sacrament, go to one of the surrounding Churches. In the meantime, know that my prayers are with all of you. Please pray for me as well that I can battle my sins better and make amends to those I have hurt!