26 February 2010 Friday of the 1st Week of Lent
Ezra 18, 21-28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5, 20-26
Let’s look back at one particular argument we had with a loved one. While we are estranged from them, we find ourselves playing tapes about how they are at fault, and therefore they should make the first move to reconcile with us. And we? We are of course innocent.
However, if we begin the process of reconciliation by talking to them, we find ourselves admitting that we too have contributed to the pain and estrangement, that we are not innocent after all. We too are at fault. In other words, when we start speaking with each other, in a loving dialogue, we are able to identify and recognize our faults, and thus, the tapes in our heads begin to change. And we begin to see the whole picture for what it truly is.
It is first of all important to recognize our faults. The Gospel tells us to go first and be reconciled with them; meaning, our sins always affects another. And thus, we confess to another person. Because when we do, Christ’s light shines on us and we understand our sinfulness for what it is. Understanding is an effect of a dialogue. In the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, we are led towards a recognition of our disordered attachments so that the light of Christ will free us from them. The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 130) says, “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?”
This to me is why confession is effective: if we do not confess our sins to another, we will never recognize our sinfulness. If we acknowledge our faults, we will discover the depth and venom of our actions.
But on the other hand, when we are able to see our sins, we just don’t experience our badness, but our capability to love more: we missed the opportunity by deciding not to love. We discover that we do have the capacity to become much more loving persons than what we think we are capable of doing. We have been complacent, when we could have been proactive.
In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius reminds us that our sinfulness is never separated from the background of Christ’s love for us. Without the background of Christ’s steadfast love and the salvation He won for us, we will become paralyzed by guilt and our sinful history. That is why when we confess, we should never dare to look back at our sinfulness because the Sacrament of Reconciliation wipes all our sins. This is the meaning of the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel. God forgets the past when we turn away from our evil deeds.
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
We should never look back or else we will be like Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt when she turned her eyes towards Sodom (Genesis 19:26). She disobeyed God’s order. When we look back, our past will paralyze us. And this is not what God wants to happen. Thus we should never look back complacently but always to look forward in love and in hope. We look forward, because Christ has saved us.
In the Season of Lent, when you find yourselves moved to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, always remember that when you do, you will gain a new life. Guaranteed: you are given another chance. And you will always be given as many chances as possible.
What about the sins you really (not deliberately) forgot (even if after confession you remember them)?Well, we do forget. But fortunately, thanks be to God, He understands and thus those sins have been wiped out too.
When you find yourselves doubting that God has not forgiven all of the sins in your past after the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you have just declared that He lied. And everything else is a farce.