2nd Sunday in Lent; Year B
With God on our side who can be against us? ‘Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.
Continuing on our theme from last week – Lend and the Sacraments – this week, the 2nd reading points us towards the particularly Catholic Sacrament of Confession (or Penanance or Reconcilation – depending on your age).
Confession is one of the most freely avaliable Sacraments, but one of the most rarely taken advantage of. The basis for Confession lies in the Gospels – the words and actions of Jesus himself. The is most clear in the words of Jesus to his deciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” [John 20:21-23]
We can be sure, then, that Confession to a priest was understood to be an authentic teaching of Christ himself. St Paul and the other Epistile writers also write about confession to others and the priest. When Paul was writing to the early Roman church in around 60AD, he is writing his Letter to them to re-enforce this message that Salvation is avaliable to all through Christ.
Part of that is assuring them – and us – that we are worth more to God than the weight of our sin. That God, who loves us, (remembering that love is willing the good for the other for their own sake) will forgive us for what we are sorry for – a promise made clear through the death of his only Begotten Son. If he would not save his own Son’s human life to show his love for us, what would he not do for us?
So how, then, can we show our sorrow? Is simply saying sorry enough? These questions are why Mother Church, in her wisdom, give us the story of the Binding of Issac as this Sunday’s first reading. It puts into our mind (hopefully) that showing we are sorry isn’t easy – and isn’t supposed to be if we mean it. We must offer sacrafice to God as a sign of sorrow – but God does not seek something ridiculous or impossible from us – even if it can seem like that is what he is asking of us.
Our Lenten penance – particuarly our prayer and fast – are a type of that.
And that, friends, is the purpose of the Sacrament of Penance. We can ‘go directly to God’ to seek forgiveness without the mediation of a priest. In this time where the Sacraments are not freely available, that is our only option at the moment and Pope Francis encourages us to do this. But, once the Sacraments are avaliable once again – we can embrace the Sacrament of Penance and offer it as our sacrafice in sorrow for our sins. Not just the 5 Hail Mary’s and 2 Our Fathers we are asked to pray in reparation – but our feelings as we re-enter the confessional, the action we decide to take to put what we made wrong right, and what we resolve to take to make ourselves better Christians in the future,