April 08, 2018 – Confession Forgives Sins

Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

Readings / Lecturas

 

English

In case you have not heard it enough yet (and, really, it is impossible to hear it enough), the Resurrection is the center of our faith. Without the Resurrection, there are not sacraments, there is no Church, there is no Bible, there is no faith. Without the Resurrection, we should all pack up and go home. The Resurrection is an historical event, for which there are hundreds of eyewitnesses, and we are the ones who continue to be witnesses to the Resurrection, both in history and in our lives.

The reason the Resurrection is the center of our faith is because it proves that Jesus has won the victory over sin and death. If the wages of sin is death, and if death could not hold the Lord, then the Lord has conquered them both. In Jesus is found every hope for immortality and every desire of sanctity. In Jesus is found the restoration of Eden and the fulfillment of our human nature as it was created by God.

But Jesus did not conquer sin and death for himself. He is God! He was never bound by sin or death in the first place. But by becoming human, by dying, and by rising from the dead, Jesus wins the victory for us who are united to him. In Jesus, our chains are broken and we are set free.

These are not just nice sayings, they actually take effect and look like something specific in our lives. Look, for example, at our first reading: The disciples of Jesus united themselves to the Resurrection and so lived in perfect harmony, not caring about their own needs, but looking after each other. In other words, they did not allow sin and selfishness to dominate their lives any more. They lived free from sin, as though they had been restored to Eden. [This, by the way, did not last long. Only a few verses later, sin snuck into the Church, and we have been a Church of both sinners and saints ever since.]

—-

Okay, but let’s back up for a second. Jesus is the one who conquered sin and death, and yet we are the ones who get to share in this victory? How? How do we unite ourselves to the Resurrection?

Primarily it is through Baptism. In Baptism we die with Christ and are raised with him, allowing us to share in the victory of his Resurrection. This is why Baptism brings with it the forgiveness of sins, both original and personal. This is why Jesus gave us the great commission to baptize and why Baptism stands at the very beginning of the Christian life. And this is why Baptism is so important and so amazing that we spent all of Lent praying for those who were going to be baptized and have spent the entire Octave of Easter continuing to pray for them even after their baptism.

But for many of us, the forgiveness of sins in Baptism occurred decades ago, and the raw power of the Resurrection has faded in our lives as the influence of sin and death have slowly put us in chains once again. Still, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection every year, and preach his victory over sin and death every Sunday. Clearly Jesus wants us to be victorious, Jesus wants us to be united with him, Jesus wants us to be free of our chains. Without rebaptism, which is antithetical to orthodox Christianity, how can we renew our unity with Jesus and participate in his victory once again?

The answer is Confession.

It is very much on purpose that Jesus uses one of his first post-Resurrection appearances to give the Apostles the power to forgive sins. It is as though he is saying, “Look, I am resurrected. I have defeated sin and death. Now I am going to give you the power to defeat sin and death, too!” The forgiveness of sins is not apart from or unrelated to the Resurrection: it is a natural consequence of the Resurrection and an essential sharing in it.

The question then for us is, if we want to participate in the Resurrection, are we going to take Jesus seriously, and believe that the Apostles who have the power to forgive sins?

Note well, Jesus did not say “Hey, I am Resurrected, so now there are no more sins.” He also did not say, “Because I am Resurrected, you are all generally and automatically forgiven of your sins.” And yet, many of us act as though these are the words of Christ. Many of us tell ourselves that a merciful God would not holds our sins against us. Or that if we just feel sorry for what we have done, God will forgive us. Or that we can just apologize to God directly, and do not have to involve the priest.

But this is not what Jesus said! Jesus gave the power to forgive and to retain sins to the Apostles specifically, which means if we want to share in the Resurrection, if we want to renew our baptism, we must do so through a priest. We must go to Confession.

So, two important questions: First, how long has it been since you went to Confession? Have you been making excuses not to go? Have you allowed one bad experience or long lines keep you from the saving forgiveness of Jesus Christ? I assure you that, while I am definitely a hard-nosed ogre normally, I try very hard to reflect only the mercy of God in the Confessional. Do not be afraid! Come back to Confession. I will help you through it, and you will not regret receiving the grace of pardon and mercy. We hear confessions in Burlington, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley every Saturday at 4pm, and sometimes earlier.

Second, if you have been to Confession recently, do you believe that you are forgiven? The flip side of Jesus’ requiring that the forgiveness of sins occur at the hands of a priest is that we can be absolutely sure that, when a priest forgives sins, it is effective. As long as there is even a shadow of sorrow, and as long as nothing was intentionally and willfully withheld, the teaching of Church is that the phrase “I absolve you from your sins” is always effective. Regardless of how you might feel, your sins are forgiven and your guilt has been wiped away. When we continue to feel guilty for past sins, we simply need to make an act of faith and remind ourselves that Jesus did give the Apostles power over sin, and we should take Jesus seriously about that. Confession – forgives – sins.

My friends, the power of the Resurrection is available to us, first through baptism, and then again through sacramental absolution. The Bible is very clear that this power was given to the Apostles and, by extension, the priests. Our path forward is clear: if we want to destroy the power of sin and death in our lives, we must return to Confession. And praise God for his divine mercy in giving us such a powerful and grace-filled sacrament.

 

Español

En caso de que aún no lo hayan oído lo suficiente (y, en realidad, es imposible oírlo lo suficiente), la resurrección es el centro de nuestra fe. Sin la resurrección, no hay sacramentos, no hay iglesia, no hay Biblia, no hay fe. Sin la resurrección, deberíamos empacar y volver a casa. La resurrección es un acontecimiento histórico, para el cual hay cientos de testigos oculares, y nosotros somos los que seguimos siendo testigos de la resurrección, tanto en la historia como en nuestras vidas.

La razón por la que la resurrección es el centro de nuestra fe es porque demuestra que Jesús ha ganado la victoria sobre el pecado y la muerte. Si la paga del pecado es la muerte, y si la muerte no pudo contener al Señor, entonces el Señor los ha conquistado a ambos. En Jesús se encuentra toda esperanza de inmortalidad y de todo deseo de santidad. En Jesús se encuentra la restauración del Edén y el cumplimiento de nuestra naturaleza humana como fue creado por Dios.

Pero Jesús no conquistó el pecado y la muerte por sí mismo. ¡Él es Dios! Nunca fue atado por el pecado o la muerte en primer lugar. Pero al volvernos humanos, al morir, y al resucitar de entre los muertos, Jesús gana la victoria para nosotros que estamos unidos a él. En Jesús, nuestras cadenas están rotas y somos liberados.

Estos no son sólo refranes agradables, en realidad toman efecto y se ven como algo específico en nuestras vidas. Mira, por ejemplo, en nuestra primera lectura: los discípulos de Jesús se unieron a la resurrección y así vivieron en perfecta armonía, sin preocuparse por sus propias necesidades, sino por cuidarse mutuamente. En otras palabras, no permitieron que el pecado y el egoísmo dominaran sus vidas más. Vivían libres del pecado, como si hubieran sido restaurados al Edén. [Esto, por cierto, no duró mucho. Sólo unos pocos versículos más tarde, el pecado se coló en la iglesia, y hemos sido una iglesia de los pecadores y los santos desde entonces.]

—-

Pero volvamos un momento. ¿Jesús es el que conquistó el pecado y la muerte, y sin embargo nosotros somos los que conseguimos compartir en esta victoria? ¿Cómo? ¿Cómo nos unimos a la resurrección?

Principalmente es por medio del bautismo. En el bautismo morimos con Cristo y nos levantamos con él, permitiéndonos compartir la victoria de su resurrección. Por eso el bautismo trae consigo el perdón de los pecados, tanto originales como personales. Esta es la razón por la cual Jesús nos dio la gran Comisión para bautizar y por qué el bautismo está en el comienzo mismo de la vida cristiana. Y es por eso que el bautismo es tan importante y tan asombroso que pasamos toda la Cuaresma orando por los que iban a ser bautizados y hemos pasado toda la octava de Pascua continuando orando por ellos aun después de su bautismo.

Pero para muchos de nosotros, el perdón de los pecados en el bautismo ocurrió hace décadas, y el poder crudo de la resurrección se ha desvanecido en nuestras vidas como la influencia del pecado y la muerte nos han puesto lentamente en cadenas una vez más. Aun así, celebramos la resurrección de Jesús cada año, y predicamos su victoria sobre el pecado y la muerte todos los domingos. Claramente Jesús quiere que seremos victoriosos, Jesús quiere que nos unimos con él, Jesús quiere que nos liberemos de nuestras cadenas. Sin el rebautizar, que es la antítesis del cristianismo ortodoxo, ¿cómo podemos renovar nuestra unidad con Jesús y participar en su victoria una vez más?

La respuesta es la confesión.

Es muy a propósito que Jesús usa una de sus primeras apariciones post-resurrección para dar a los apóstoles el poder de perdonar los pecados. Es como si estuviera diciendo, “Mira, estoy resucitado. He vencido el pecado y la muerte. ¡Ahora te voy a dar el poder de vencer el pecado y la muerte, también!” El perdón de los pecados no está separado o no relacionado con la resurrección: es una consecuencia natural de la resurrección y un compartir esencial en ella.

La pregunta entonces para nosotros es, si queremos participar en la resurrección, ¿vamos a tomar a Jesús en serio, y creer que los apóstoles que tienen el poder de perdonar los pecados?

Nota bueno, Jesús no dijo “Oye, estoy resucitado, así que ahora no hay más pecados.” Él tampoco dijo, “Porque yo soy resucitado, todos ustedes son generalmente y automáticamente perdonados de sus pecados.” Y, sin embargo, muchos de nosotros actuamos como si estas fueran las palabras de Cristo. Muchos de nosotros nos decimos que un Dios misericordioso no retiene nuestros pecados contra nosotros. O que, si sólo sentimos lástima por lo que hemos hecho, Dios nos perdonará. O que sólo podemos pedir disculpas a Dios directamente, y no tenemos que involucrar al sacerdote.

¡Pero esto no es lo que dijo Jesús! Jesús dio el poder de perdonar y de retener los pecados a los apóstoles específicamente, lo que significa que, si queremos compartir en la resurrección, si queremos renovar nuestro bautismo, debemos hacerlo por medio de un sacerdote. Tenemos que ir a confesarnos.

Entonces, dos preguntas importantes: primero, ¿Cuánto tiempo ha pasado desde que fuiste a confesarte? ¿Has estado haciendo excusas para no ir? ¿Ha permitido que una mala experiencia o largas colas le impidan salvar el perdón de Jesucristo? Le aseguro que, si bien soy definitivamente un ogro de nariz dura normalmente, me esfuerzo mucho por reflejar sólo la misericordia de Dios en el confesionario. ¡No tengas miedo! Vuelve a confesarte. Yo te ayudaré, y no te arrepentirás de recibir la gracia del perdón y la misericordia. Oímos confesiones en Burlington, Mount Vernon, y Sedro-Woolley todos los sábados a las cuatro pm, y algunas veces antes.

En segundo lugar, si usted ha estado en la confesión recientemente, ¿cree usted que usted es perdonado? El otro lado de Jesús requiriendo que el perdón de los pecados ocurra a manos de un sacerdote es que podemos estar absolutamente seguros de que, cuando un sacerdote perdona los pecados, es efectivo. Mientras haya incluso una sombra de arrepentimiento, y mientras nada fuera retenido intencionalmente, la enseñanza de la iglesia es que la frase “yo te absuelvo de tus pecados” siempre es efectiva. Independientemente de cómo se pueda sentir, sus pecados son perdonados y su culpabilidad ha sido borrada. Cuando seguimos sintiéndonos culpables por los pecados pasados, simplemente necesitamos hacer un acto de fe y recordarnos a nosotros mismos que Jesús dio a los apóstoles poder sobre el pecado, y debemos tomar seriamente a Jesús sobre eso. Confesión – perdona-pecados.

Mis amigos, el poder de la resurrección está disponible para nosotros, primero por medio del bautismo, y luego otra vez por medio de la absolución sacramental. La Biblia es muy clara que este poder fue dado a los apóstoles y, por extensión, a los sacerdotes. Nuestro camino hacia adelante es claro: si queremos destruir el poder del pecado y la muerte en nuestras vidas, debemos volver a confesarnos. Y alabar a Dios por su divina misericordia al darnos un sacramento tan poderoso y lleno de gracia.

 

Other Notes

Featured image found here.

One thought on “April 08, 2018 – Confession Forgives Sins

  1. A funny thing happened on the way to confession:

    It took me a year, a full year, to get there. Easter of 2017, I went to confession for the first time in 50 years. There is not one single word I can think of that adequately sums up what I experienced every time I even remotely contemplated going. Daunting, intimidating – not even close, dread – yes but what I really experienced was heart pounding fear.

    For a full year before I actually made the leap, I talked to myself incessantly, asked myself questions, practiced what I would say and how I would say it. Then I would try to anticipate what the priest would ask me and practice those answers too. Every day when I walked my dog, I talked out loud wording and rewording what I would say and how I would say it. I’m sure my neighbors were not quite sure if I was ‘on’ something. Last year during one of my walks, I was caught talking out loud by the Presbyterian minister who just happens to be my next door neighbor (but then I’m sure she already thinks I’m strange because she once caught me conjugating Latin verbs out loud while walking my dog). What can I say? My mother was a Latin teacher and I do my best work while walking my dog.

    Anyway, I agonized for so long just trying to remember all my sins these last 50 years. I finally gave up and made a “Top Ten List of Greatest Sins”. Then I proceeded to practice how I would broach these in confession. I tried different verbiage, found words that seemed to my ear, to soften and mitigate the description of each sin. The words “circumlocution” and “periphrases” cropped into my head often since my Latin teacher Mother used to accuse me of this constantly. By the way, my Mother talked out loud to herself all the time so I am fond of blaming her for this genetic anomaly.

    But I digress…After a year of wrangling with myself about this, what finally hit me squarely in the face was rereading C.S. Lewis who wrote “Those who do not think about their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others.” Guilty as charged. That was the impetus I needed to finally go to confession.

    Lo and behold it wasn’t so bad after all! When I told the priest it had been almost 50 years since my last confession, he said and I quote: “50 years? Were you in jail?” I don’t know if he was serious or making a joke. I laughed out loud and that eased the way.

    When I was through, relief was immediate. The burden had been lifted and I felt better than I had in a very long time. Confession truly is good for the soul. I recommend it highly.

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