SATURDAY HOMILY: Confessors and Penitents: Keys to the Church's renewal
part of the truth about the human person. To recognize oneself as a sinner is the first and essential step in returning to the healing love of God."
In effect, the pope told those shepherds to return to their flocks and remind them of the reality of sin and of each one's personal responsibility for it and to seek forgiveness and healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sadly, at least in my part of the world, I don't remember hearing of any homilies or pastoral letters that brought that message home.
However, it shouldn't take a lightening bolt from the sky to make us understand this. Bishops and priests must not shy away from preaching about sin. Deep down people don't want to hear cute stories from the pulpit; they want to be told the truth. With all charity and with the necessary discretion and prudence, we must with our preaching help souls to be convicted of their sins so that they may seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.
"Given this reality," John Paul said, "the bishop's duty to indicate the sad and destructive presence of sin, both in individuals and in communities, is in fact a service of hope."
"Far from being something negative, it strengthens believers to abandon evil and embrace the perfection of love and the fullness of Christian life."
He told the bishops, "Let us boldly announce that indeed we are not the sum total of our weaknesses and failures! We are the sum of the Father's love for us, and capable of becoming the image of his Son!"
"As pastors of your flock it is with this merciful love -- never a mere sense of favor -- that you too must reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin," the pope said.
Bishops and priests need to preach about sin as well as the boundless mercy of God and then be willing to sit in the confessional for hours if need be.
During his apostolic visit to the United States, our beloved pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, made this incisive point:
"To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes."
It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that the priest, both as confessor and sorrowful penitent (that is, as one who frequently avails himself of the Sacrament of Penance), is the linchpin in the renewal of the Church and society.
Pray for your bishops and priests that they will heed this urgent plea. May Our Blessed Lady, Mother of Priests and Refuge of Sinners, lead us all to a true conversion during this Year of Faith.
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Pastor of Holy Innocents Church in Long Beach, California.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Fr. G. Peter Irving III, Holy Innocents Long Beach, loss of the sense of sin, confession, Nazi holocaust, American abortion holocaust
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