Saturday, March 17, 2012

4th Sunday of Lent Year B (Gospel: John 3:14-21) So that sins may be forgiven.

Almost every time I celebrate the mass there is one line which strikes me more than any other.  It is the line the priest prays over the chalice, ‘this is the chalice of my blood.  It will be poured out for you and for many, so that sins may be forgiven.’  That short phrase sums up what the whole mass is about, and what the whole celebration of Easter is about.  God takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and dies for his people, so that sins may be forgiven.  The death and resurrection of Christ is all about this.  This is what our faith celebrates above everything else. We believe in a God who not only created us, but is so interested in us and our happiness, that when we had lost it through sin, He made the ultimate sacrifice for his people, so that we would reach the happiness which He had created for us.  If I don’t believe that much, then I am not a Christian, because that is exactly what the Christian faith is all about: a God who loves his people so much that He not only will give everything, but does give everything for them.  That is why we call it ‘good news.’

There is an old Arabic proverb which says: ‘It is easier to see a black beetle, on a black stone, on a black night, than for someone to see the pride in their own heart.’  How true this is.  It also says in one of the Psalms, ‘[the sinner] so flatters himself in his heart, that he knows not his own sin.’

In confession it is amazing how often people will say to me, ‘It is a year (or more) since my last confession, but I don’t really have any sins.’  It says in the first letter of St. John, ‘If anyone says they have not sinned, they are calling God a liar!’  That might seem a bit extreme, but it is not, because if we haven’t sinned, then the death and resurrection of Jesus was pointless; and that would also mean that the mass is meaningless.  For us to deny our own sinfulness is more serious than we might think.  If I fail to admit my own sinfulness, then I deny the need for God and for all that God has done for me.

Of all the ways that we prepare for Easter, abstaining from things, giving to charity or whatever else, there is nothing more important in the eyes of God than confessing our sins.  Why? because this is what God asks us to do.  Confessing our sins is not just about us, it is also a way of saying that I recognise all that God has done for me, and I am responding to that.

Now I know that people say, ‘Well I can tell God I am sorry myself.’  Of course you can if you want, but why did the Lord say to Peter and the Apostles,  
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven;
If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained (Jn 20:23).

Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me (Lk 10:16).

It is good to remember those words.

So if you really want to receive God’s blessing this Easter, then do as He asks you and confess your sins.  God gave us this purely for our benefit, not for his, or to keep the Church happy.  It is a most extraordinary gift to us, to help us come closer to him, to be at peace and to be healed.  The Lord doesn’t want us to be dragging our sins around with us, but He wants us to be free and at peace and that is why He has given us this extraordinary gift.  It is his gift to help us.
This is the chalice of my blood. 
It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven.

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