CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Without a doubt, Lent is the most demanding time of the year for the true disciple of Christ.Â Lent provides us an opportunity not only to intensify our spiritual practices, but this penitential season also gives us a unique opportunity to reflect deeply on the progress of our journey towards eternal life.
Saint Paul reminds us that our entrance into Heaven is not a guaranteed reality when he writes, "Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall" (1 Corinthians 10: 12).
Lent is a time for seriously questioning ourselves about our relationship with God.Â We might ask whether there are any particular sins or attachments that might prove to be obstacles to our achieving eternal salvation.Â
A serious Lent is not only like a spring cleaning in which we cleanse our souls of the clutter that has been accumulating there, it is also a time when changes in the way we live our lives may be in order.
This Sunday's Gospel passage underscores this theme as Jesus makes it very clear that our decisions and actions do have consequences.Â Our God is a God of mercy, and he forgives any repentant sinner; however, this forgiveness does not take away from the fact that deliberate rejection of the truth does have a personal cost.
Many people in our present day have experienced profound conversions. The personal testimonies of life changing experiences bear continual witness to the ever-present action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all those who are searching for happiness and peace.
However, conversion is a daily enterprise.Â Every day we are faced with choices and challenges that affect our relationship with the Lord.Â It is not easy to be faithful. But God's grace makes discipleship not only possible, it also makes it an amazing adventure.
We must not be surprised that Christianity essentially implies a daily, personal struggle.Â Commitment and battle go hand in hand.Â We have to take very seriously the fact that our human nature is wounded by original sin.Â Discouragement is never an option for true disciples of Christ.
Every day presents a new opportunity to begin again.Â God's loving mercy is always available to us through the sacrament of Confession.Â It is precisely God's loving willingness to forgive our sins that fills us with the hope of eternal life.
In this Sunday's responsorial psalm we hear words that fill us with profound consolation: "He pardons all of your iniquities, he heals all of your ills.Â He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion" (Psalm 103: 3-4.
The Sacrament of Confession is your best weapon in your fight against sin.
What is sin?Â The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition. "Sin is an offense against reason, truth and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law" (#1849).
Scripture tells us that actual sin is divided into two classifications: mortal sin and venial sin. "There is a sin that leads to death." (1John 5:16).Â "Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death" (1John 5:17).
Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the Sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession." (#1456).
If you are dealing with mortal sin, do not sleep in mortal sin.Â Find a good priest and go to Confession immediately.Â Especially when dealing with sexual sin, it is very important to be very demanding on yourself.Â It is possible to live habitually in the state of grace.Â Again, this is the first goal of the spiritual life - to live in the state of grace, free from mortal sin.Â
Mortal sin occurs when there is full knowledge that something is a sin; when there is full consent and when the act is grave or serious.Â A venial sin occurs when there is full knowledge that something is a sin; when there is full consent, but the act is less grave or serious.Â Temptation is not a sin.Â There is no need to mention temptations or struggles within the Sacrament of Confession.Â
What an immense gift we have been given!Â The Sacrament of Confession is an enormous source of interior peace.Â The priest raises his hand, and then with a blessing pronounces those amazing words: "I absolve you from your sins."Â At that moment, we know that God has heard our cry for forgiveness, and we have been pardoned of our sins.Â
"He pardons all of your iniquities, he heals all of your ills.Â He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion" (Psalm 103: 3-4.
Sadly, for many Catholics, the Sacrament of Confession has become the forgotten sacrament.Â
Last October when speaking at the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan affirmed that "the primary sacrament of the New Evangelization is the sacrament of penance."
He went on to say, "Yes the sacraments of initiation - baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist - change, challenge and equip the agents of evangelization, but the sacrament of reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus who calls us to conversion of heart and inspires (us) to answer his invitation to repentance."
In my book Get Serious - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics, I dedicate an entire chapter to the Sacrament of Confession where I clearly explain in a way that everyone can understand the importance of this beautiful sacrament.Â
As we continue our Lenten journey and we reflect upon the Sacrament of Confession, it is also crucial that we recognize the essential link between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession.
Many times the lines of people going up to receive Communion do not match up to the size of the lines of people waiting to go to Confession.
Saint Paul speaks to us about the importance of receiving Communion in the state of grace when he says:Â "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment* on himself.Â That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying" (1 Corinthians 11: 28-30).Â
The Sacrament of Confession is the first act of the Risen Lord.Â On Easter Sunday Jesus gave the Church the authority to forgive sins.Â "Receive the Holy Spirit.Â For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" (John 20: 22-23).
Let us always make good use of this awesome gift from God.Â It is through the Sacrament of Confession that we will experience the peace that only Jesus can give us.Â
Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.Â Â Apps for Father James' homily are now available for Android and iPhone.
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