Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
We are in the 5th Sunday of Lent. In the gospel, we see Jesus is confronted with law and forgiveness by the scribes and Pharisees. I would like to share with you a story of a woman who came to know the meaning of forgiveness in her life. One day in 1980 a young Russian woman named Tatiana Goricheva, crossed the Soviet border to freedom. Once in the West, she wrote a book about her conversion to Christianity which had taken place in Russia. From her earliest childhood, Tatiana had been a rebellious child. She hated the tyranny of Russia. She hated the people around her for putting up with this tyranny. She hated her parents for not protesting against it. Tatiana sought to escape from this cruel world by burying herself in books and reading. Eventually she went to college. There she distinguished herself as a brilliant student and scholar. But instead of fitting in with the other students, she associated with the low life of Russian society: drug users, alcoholics, prostitutes. While living this divided life, she became interested in Eastern mysticism especially the practice of yoga. One of her books on yoga suggested using the Lord’s Prayer as a mantra. The meaning of the Lord’s Prayer began to sink into her slowly. So she began to read everything she could find on Christianity. The more she read about it, the more fascinated she became with Jesus. At the age of 26, Tatiana was re-baptized. At this time, she also decided to make a full confession of her life to a priest. Describing the experience, she says: “I told the priest about my drunkenness and my sexual excesses, my unhappy marriages, the abortions, and my inability to love anyone.” When the confession was over she was a changed person. Jesus not only had forgiven her all her sins, but had touched her deeply in the process. She went forth from it a new creation. The religious authorities were trying to test Jesus by placing a dilemma before him; to choose the Law of Moses or Mercy to the woman. Even in a crucial situation, Jesus chose mercy over the law.
This raises a serious question. Some people today are reluctant to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As one person put it, “I find myself confessing the same sins over and over. Why confess them at all?” One way to look at this problem is to draw a comparison between our spiritual health and our physical health. Because of our genes each of us is born with certain physical weaknesses like poor eyesight, different kinds of allergies, or similar physical defects. What would be unusual is if we’d stop taking our allergy shots because our allergies never goes away. Our spiritual health is much the same. Each of us has certain spiritual weaknesses like tending to be impatient, critical of others, proud, self-centered, and the like. Therefore, we should not have considered it unusual if we have to keep going back to confession, seeking forgiveness for failures related to these spiritual weaknesses. A second reason why some people are reluctant to make use of the sacrament of Reconciliation is that they feel they don’t have anything to confess. One way to look at this problem is to realize that perhaps, we have become insensitive to our spiritual weaknesses and failures. The First Letter of John says bluntly, “if we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves.” (1 John 1:8) Another way to look at this problem is to realize that perhaps, we have been focusing too much on sins of commission rather than omission. It comes as a surprise to some people to learn that the Gospel lays most of its stress on sins of omission – not doing things we should do. It is precisely this stress that we find in Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment. Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me…What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me”. (Matthew 25:41-45)
In brief then, Lent is a time when we take a close look at our lives to determine what part of them is going in the wrong direction. We then seek out the forgiving Jesus and ask his healing and pardon for this spiritual defect.
I would like to ask you to take advantage of the opportunity of Confession as we prepare ourselves for the great feast: The Lord’s Supper, the Passion and Crucifixion of the Lord and the Resurrection. Our special Penance Service with Confession, before Holy Week, is Wednesday, April 10th from 6:00 – 7:00 pm.
God Bless You,