By Bishop Richard J. Malone 3/2/2016
homily this year begins with a question addressed to the confirmands: If
you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence
to convict you? In more direct terms, what is different about my life
because I am a Christian, a Catholic? Can those who know me tell the
difference Jesus makes in my life? Can I?
Lent is the graced season to take an honest look at the authenticity and
quality of our discipleship. How intentional are we in our following
of Christ? How faithful is our living of the Gospel? How grateful are
we for the gift of faith? How eager am I to share the joy of the Gospel
with others? And ... can I admit that, yes, I am a sinner?
I don't think I am alone in my admission that there are gaps between
what Christ asks of me and my 24/7 performance as a Christian. While
Jesus tells us to "be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect," a
moment of self-reflection yields a very quick recognition that, even
though we strive, we are far from perfection. I am pretty sure that we
are all in solidarity in that regard. There is no one among us who is
not a sinner. Sin harms our relationship with God as well as with one
another. We need forgiveness.
More powerful than any sin is God's longing to forgive us, to share with
us the gift of His mercy. Consider the title of Pope Francis' new
book, "The Name of God Is Mercy." Jesus' own mercy-ministry of forgiving
sins 2000 years ago continues in the sacrament of penance and
reconciliation. When we go to confession, we encounter the merciful
Christ who makes Himself present in the priest.
Here is what Pope Francis tells us in his new book:
Jesus said to His apostles: "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose you retain are retained" (John20:19-23). Therefore, the
apostles and all their successors - the bishops and their colleagues,
the priests - become instruments of the mercy of God. They act in persona Christi.
This is very beautiful ... confessing to a priest is a way of putting
my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that
moment acts in the name of Jesus."
Spiritual writer Francis Fernandez has good advice for us if we are
considering going to confession this Lent: "When we go to receive this
sacrament we must think of Christ above all else. We must make sure He
is the center of this sacramental act ... We need to look at Jesus more
than at ourselves."
The Light Is On For You is our diocesan commitment to offer extra
opportunities for sacramental confession during Lent. Throughout the
diocese, parishes are providing additional hours for confession, most
often on Wednesdays around 5-7 p.m., but with variations of day and time
depending on local parish situations. Check our diocesan website for
detailed schedules: www.wnycatholic.org/mercy
While we have several churches around the diocese that have Doors of
Mercy (a good Lenten practice would be to make a pilgrimage to one of
them), every confessional and reconciliation room is, in truth, a door
of mercy. Enter in, and know the saving embrace of God's unconditional