THE POWER TO FORGIVE SINS
(Acts 5:12-16; Ps 117:2-4, 22-27; Rev 1:9-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31)
Every second Sunday of Easter, as requested by Christ through St. Faustina and promulgated by St. John Paul II, is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is the day when we are called upon to receive and extend God's mercy to the ends of the earth. Our God is a God of mercy, slow to anger and rich in love and compassion. In an analogical way, we are called to follow his example. As we celebrate the mercy of God today, I will like us to meditate on the sacrament of Confession which goes with the power to forgive sins.
Few weeks ago, precisely on a Sunday afternoon, I was called up for a sick call at the hospital. On leaving the house, I had to add fuel to the car. Stopping at the petrol station, I met a man who came to buy fuel as well. Seeing me in Roman collar, he asked me which church I belonged to. When I told him I was a Roman Catholic priest, he descended on me with series of questions: why do you Catholics pray to Mary? Why do you Catholics worship statues? Why to you Catholics go for confessions to a priest? When I asked him to come over to the Presbytery if he wants us to talk, he refused and said even if he is paid to come to church, he cannot do that because we are all hypocrites. He justified himself by saying he has so many friends who are Catholics and they go around committing terrible sins and will finish and come to the priest for confession and the priest will say his sins are forgiven. He said this is not correct. Why he was still talking, I had finished my business at the petrol station and had to excuse myself and drove off.
Reflecting on what he said about confession, I realised how wrong he was. Myself, I would say like St. Paul, I am the greatest sinner in the world. If not for the sacrament of confession that helps me, I don't know where I should have been. We are all sinners in need of God's mercy. God extends his mercy to us in the sacrament the of confession. This is confirmed to us by Jesus when he gave us the sacrament of Confession as we find in today's gospel passage. He says to his apostles: "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. After saying this, he breathes on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" (Jn 20:21-23).
Dear friends in Christ, the power to forgive sins was handed by Jesus himself to the apostles and we celebrate this in the Sacrament of Confession. Through the absolution of the priest, who acts in the name and person of Christ, our sins are completely forgiven. In that sacrament, God does not question us why we did the things we did but welcomes us back and gives us the opportunity to start afresh again. He welcomes us back as the father of the prodigal son welcomed back the Son after a life of sin (Lk 15:11-32).
As christians, we should always learn to celebrate the mercy of God. At the same time, we are challenged not to take his mercy for granted by living a daily life of sin. We need to strive everyday to rise from sin and walk in the ways of God. This doesn't mean when we fall, we shouldn't approach the sacrament of Confession. This is important because I have seen people who shy away from the sacrament or who are afraid to make use of the sacrament because they thing the priest will know their sins. No matter how many times we fall in a particular sin, we should have the courage to approach God's throne of mercy by celebrating the sacrament worthily. Also, one thing I will like to caution is the need to take time to prepare before going to celebrate this sacrament. Sometimes in the confessional, I have the feeling that people just rushed in to celebrate the sacrament without taking time to prepare themselves as well as not even knowing what to do. We need to treat the sacrament with all respect by preparing well for it, knowing how to do it and the prayers involve in it.
As we do the above, we are also are challenged to go out and spread the mercy of God by being loving and merciful to one another. If we need God's mercy, we should be able to extend mercy to others by forgiving those who have hurt us. It is only through this that we can enjoy the peace God brings to us in his son. Jesus himself emphasised this in the Our Father prayer - forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
May we pray for the graces to always make use of the sacrament of confessions and learn to extend God's mercy to all.
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday to you all.
- Fr. E Rinda