I have constantly to remind myself that God can make the desert bloom, and that throughout the Bible water is a powerful sign of His blessing, His gift of life. In hearing confessions I've witnessed people's faith being revived, perhaps after lying dormant for decades. This usually happens during Advent and Lent, as we prepare for Christmas and Easter. The Holy Spirit has blown life into what, mistakenly, we had thought were dead, cold embers. Something has touched their hearts. Perhaps nostalgia for what had been important in their lives, or perhaps someone's casual remark, made long ago had re-kindled the flame.
Monday, 29 March 2010
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Monday, 8 March 2010
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
I've found that the penitent holds up a mirror to my own life whenever I hear a confession. As I look at myself I have to ask myself whether I'm guilty of the same faults. God uses the repentant sinner to inspire me to question my own life and seek forgiveness. Any advice I may give I must apply to myself. And when I do advise, it is God prompting me to say just the right thing, taking me by surprise.
We priests should always presume that everyone who comes to confession knows he's done wrong and is sorry for his sins. Otherwise he wouldn't bother to come. What he seeks is forgiveness. Any advice we give should build him up, not humiliate and crush him with angry recriminations. This Sacrament of Reconciliation is meant to make forgiveness, not sinning, easy for those genuinely repentant sinners, who really want to make a fresh start. When Jesus forgave repentant sinners He combined firmness in saying, "sin no more" with the compassionate words, "your sins are forgiven." He is the model for every priest hearing confessions.
Though it's a great privilege for a priest to be the minister of God's mercy it can also be very exhausting and tedious. Being human, we may sometimes become impatient or irritable. When we are, we need the penitent's understanding and forgiveness, just as much as he needs ours.
After being a penitent for about seventy years and a priest for over fifty I have learnt that this peacemaking sacrament is the most wonderful way of meeting God, even though we may find it painful to confess our sins. Through this sacrament we most directly experience the saving power of our crucified and risen Lord. Christ enables us to make our peace with God; our baptismal commitment to Him is renewed, as we die to sin and rise once again to new life.
The Gospels tell us God rejoices with the angels as he welcomes back the repentant sinner. When the Prodigal Son returned home his Father rejoiced with the words, "My son was dead and is now alive again; he was lost and is now found." No wonder they celebrated with a banquet!
Next week Fr Peter will reflect on Meeting God through "Abraham, My Mentor"