by Fr. Tommy Lane
We do not think often enough of how precious and special each one of us is in the eyes of God. Our reading from Ephesians (1:3-14) reminds us that we were chosen in Christ before the world was made. Imagine, before the world was made each of us was in God’s plan, even before the world was made. We were chosen by God. Just think about it, you were chosen by God. We were marked out for God as his sons and daughters. And it was when we were baptized that we became sons and daughters of God. Since we are chosen by God it is only natural to want to live lives that reflect the love of God for each of us, that God chose us. What a pity that most of what we see on TV, much of what is in the soaps, does not reflect who we really are, chosen by God. Watching soaps and many other things on TV leaves one with the question, have they any idea of who we really are?
The reading reminds us also that it is through the blood of Jesus that we gain our freedom, our salvation. (Eph 1:7) Someone had to pay the price for our sins and Jesus paid that price. During every Mass we offer Jesus once again to the Father to pay that price on behalf of us. Since we have been saved through the blood of Jesus think of how precious and valuable each of us. You are worth the precious blood of Jesus. That is how much you cost because Jesus shed his blood for you. You are worth the precious blood of Jesus because Jesus shed his blood for you. Sometimes we hear people say “It’s my body and I can do with it what I want.” Our bodies have been purchased for God by the precious blood of Jesus. When we know our worth and value we cannot say “It’s my body and I can do with it what I want.” Instead we recognize that we have been chosen by God and that we are worth the price of Jesus’ blood and that our vocation is to be holy and faultless.
The reading said we were stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit. (Eph 1:13) We first received the Holy Spirit when we were baptized. It is as if God put a stamp, a mark, on us and said, “Now you belong to me. This stamp of the Holy Spirit I put on your at baptism is to show that you belong to me.” That stamp of the Holy Spirit on us since baptism is to remind us that as sons and daughters of God we are heirs of God and so we will inherit from God our Father. What will we inherit? Eternal life. Our reading about God’s plan for us reminds me of a beautiful line in Jer 29:11 also about God’s plan for us. It goes like this:
“I know the plans I have in mind for you – it is Yahweh who speaks – plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you.”
But unfortunately we do not always live up to God’s plan for us. Sometimes we follow our own agenda instead of God’s agenda. We follow our own plans instead of God’s plans. That is what sin is. It is saying “No” to God’s wonderful plans for us. Sin is when I decide what is right and wrong instead of letting God decide what is right and wrong for me. Having hurt our relationship with God and disobeyed God’s plans for us we have come here tonight to be healed. We have certainly come to the right place because Jesus is only one who can heal us from sin.
Remember during his ministry all the times he healed sinners. Jesus does not condemn us when we sin but he asks us to turn away from sin and follow him again. To the woman caught in adultery Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you but go and do not sin again.” (John 8:11) Jesus does not condemn you but asks you not to sin again.
Remember in Luke 7:36-50 when Jesus was at dinner in the house of Simon the Pharisee. A woman came in who had a bad reputation in the town. She poured her tears over Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. The Pharisees who were at the dinner with Jesus were thinking to themselves that Jesus didn’t know what kind of woman she was or otherwise he would not have allowed her to touch him. Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, “Her sins, her many sins must have been forgiven her because she has shown such great love.” (Luke 7:47)
When Jesus was passing through Jericho (Luke 19) he went into the house of Zacchaeus who was a chief tax-collector (Luke 19:2) and therefore regarded as a very big sinner because the tax collectors only passed on to the Romans a fraction of the taxes they collected for Rome. We can easily imagine that Jesus would have had dinner in his house. (Luke 19:5) The people of Jericho were very annoyed with Jesus but he said to them, “The Son of Man has not come to call the virtuous but to call sinners to repentance.” (Luke 19:10)
When it came to choosing disciples Jesus didn’t always choose those with the best reputations. One of those he called was a tax-collector (Mark 2:14). Depending on which Gospel you read he is named either Matthew or Levi. He gave a dinner in his house for Jesus after Jesus called him. Like what happened in Jericho we can imagine that it must have irritated many people. So it is no wonder that a rhyme was made up about Jesus which went like this:
“Behold a glutton and a
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34)
So have no fear in approaching Jesus to tell him your sins tonight. He is a friend of sinners. He has not come to call the virtuous but to call sinners to repentance. Not only that but in Heb 4:15 we read that Jesus was like us in every way except sin. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but he did not sin. So Jesus understands our trials and temptations. We normally think of Jesus suffering temptations only during the forty days in the desert but in fact Jesus suffered temptations all during his ministry although he did not sin. There is a very telling statement during the Last Supper in Luke’s Gospel (22:28). Jesus said to the disciples, “You are the ones who have stood by me in all my trials.” So Jesus suffered many trials, all during his ministry. Remember the time when Peter told Jesus not to go to Jerusalem to suffer his Passion. That was a temptation from Satan and Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” (Mark 8:33) So Jesus had many trials, all during his ministry. He was tempted in every way that we are though he did not sin. He understands your trials and does not condemn you but asks you to go and sin no more, so have no fear in approaching Jesus to tell him your sins.
Why do we have to tell our sins to a priest? Why not tell our sins directly to God? When we are sick the surgeon operates on us. Sometimes God does heal dramatically without medical intervention but normally God works through the hands of a human surgeon. It is the same with forgiveness. God works through his human instrument of forgiveness who is the priest. Jesus said to Peter, “if you forgive sins they are forgiven and if you retain sins they are retained.” (John 20:23) Jesus has given to priests the power to forgive sins.
After surgery one of the questions we ask sometimes is “Did they get it all, did they remove it all?” because we know that if they didn’t remove it all we won’t be well. It is the same when we confess our sins. If we do not confess all we will not be healed. Don’t go home tonight still holding on to something. Have all your sins forgiven tonight, don’t hold back on telling some sins. You will feel the better for it afterwards by having told all your sins.
How are our sins forgiven? Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We are not saved by anything we do. We are saved only by Jesus. When we confess our sins the blood of Jesus flows from the cross over us and washes us clean.
The priest gives us penance. It is not that God needs our penance. God does not need our penance. We need our penance. If a child does something wrong the child is punished to learn a lesson. We need penance for our good. If we are suffering from guilt, penance is a way to heal our guilt.
You are aware of the revelations of Jesus to a holy nun in Poland, Sr. Faustina, now St. Faustina, about his Divine Mercy. This is what Jesus said to St. Faustina about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, confession,
“There the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated. It suffices to come with faith to the feet of my representative and to reveal to him one’s misery and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. When you go to confession, know this, that I myself am waiting for you in the confessional; I am only hidden by the priest, but myself act in the soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great there is no limit to my generosity.”
As we go now to confess our sins I want to conclude with two beautiful passages from Scripture about God’s mercy. The first is from Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us talk this
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red as crimson,
They shall be like wool.” (Isa 1:18)
The second passage is from the last book of the Bible, Rev 3:20 and it is Jesus who is talking,
“Look, I am standing at the door knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him.”
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
More homilies for a Penance Service / Reconciliation Service
Related Homilies: The Woman caught in Adultery - “Go and do not sin any more”
stories about God’s Mercy
stories about confession of sin
stories about sin