HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: Frequent Confession.
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
The Feast of the Lord’s Baptism last Sunday reminded us of our own baptism. Through this sacrament we have become God’s children. We are, therefore, called to be holy. Holiness is possible for us all because of Jesus Christ. Pope St. John Paul II said: “Jesus Christ comes to call us to holiness and constantly gives us the graces we need for our sanctification. He constantly gives us ‘the power to become children of God.’ This, the sanctification of men, is the gift of the Lamb of God” (Homily, 18 January 1981).
In the Gospel this Sunday, St. John the Baptist points to Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The lamb has always been the sacrificial animal since time immemorial, especially among the Chosen People of God. The most beautiful and unblemished lamb is chosen and slaughtered on the altar as sacrificial offering to God. At the very start of his public ministry, Jesus has already assumed this role, and John the Baptist pointed that out: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus is the sacrificial offering to redeem mankind from sin. He is going to be slaughtered on the altar of the cross, and his blood will wash away our sins. The image of the Lamb of God, then, is the clear picture of the self-sacrificing love of God for us sinners. It is the undeniable proof of God’s love for us.
Definitely, we have to rejoice in this Good News! But the reality gives us a sad picture. The world continues to be in the clutches of sin and evil, and more and more people are turning away from the path shown to us by Christ. We ourselves experience the seeming futility of struggling against sin and evil. In my priestly ministry, too often I hear people express utter helplessness: “Father, I just can’t take this sin off my back. I want to be good, but I keep on sinning.” And at times, I would hear the most absurd reasoning for not going to confession: “What’s the use of going to confession when I know that in a short while I will be back to the same sin again?” The years go by, and we grow older, but we still fall into sin.
A young priest was in the park with his spiritual director, an elderly priest. He asked, “Father, at what age will I be able to fully overcome my lustful desires and sins of the flesh?” The old priest replied, “Well, perhaps when you reach my age, 70 years.” Suddenly, a beautiful and attractive lady passed in front of them. Both priests could not help but look at the thing of beauty. Then the old priest said, “I stand corrected. Make that eighty.”
All of us undergo the same struggle against sin and temptations. Age hardly matters. We are so weak and vulnerable. St. Paul himself had a similar struggle and he confided this in his Letter to the Romans: “What I do, I do not understand… For I do not do the good I want but I do the evil I do not want” (Rom 7:15, 19). Life in this world is never easy. It is more so with Christian life. It is a difficult uphill climb towards the peak of holiness, and we cannot stop. Otherwise, we slide down. As a saying goes, “When the going gets easy, be careful. You may be going downhill!”
But we are never alone. The Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, is with us in this journey, giving us the strength and all the graces we need. And if ever we fall, he is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He is ready to forgive us and raise us up once again.
This, then, leads us to consider one concrete and effective resolution: regular and frequent sacramental confession. If we really want to grow in holiness, and discover true peace and joy in life, regular and frequent confession is necessary.
Let me illustrate this in a simple example. When we eat, we use plate and utensils. The best time to wash them is immediately after eating. The leftover particles and residue will be easy to wash off. But if we decide to wash the dishes after two or three days, the residue sticks to them and hardens, and it will be more difficult to remove them. What is worse, while unwashed, they attract cockroaches, ants, and other insects. Imagine such insects crawling over your dining plates!
Something similar happens to our soul. When we commit sins, the best time to go to confession is as soon as possible. How often do we need to go to confession? Every time we fall into sin – and that happens everyday – big or small sins, all are sins just the same. They all make our soul dirty, and it needs to be washed right away. Otherwise, the dirt of sin sticks to our soul. Then the temptations, vices and other sins start crawling in, taking control of our soul, destroying the beauty and sanctity of the temple of the Holy Spirit. In a short while, we get used to the dirt and stench of sin as our conscience becomes numb and desensitized, and very soon we forget about them. Having a “clear conscience” does not necessarily mean “clean conscience” – it may just as well mean “bad memory”. Most often, those who have not gone to confession for many years remember only a couple of sins during confession.
St. Macarius has an interesting way of describing a soul that has neglected the sacrament of Confession: “When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.”
Frequent confession, then, is an indispensable aid in our growth in holiness. It helps us to remain humble and honest to ourselves. It gives us the grace and strength not to go back to the same sins and to resist temptations and occasions of sin. It is the best remedy against laxity, complacency, tepidity and lack of love. Most importantly, it enables us to remain constantly in the grace of God – that is, God resides within us.
The Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., offers this wise pastoral admonition: “The Sacrament of Penance as the Sacrament of Confession should be received at least twice a month. There need be no grave sins to confess. That is the whole purpose of ‘Confessions of Devotion’. They are potent channels of grace for the massive conversion of sinners.”
Hence, St. Basil tells us: “We shall not, therefore, give occasion to sin, we shall not give any room to the enemy within us, if by constant recollection we keep God ever dwelling in our hearts” (Hexameron, 3.10).
God loves us. That is why He sent His only Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, to take away our sins. As we rejoice in this truth, may we have the firm resolve to turn away from sin so that God will finally dwell in us, enabling us to bear abundant fruits of holiness and goodness.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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