Sermon from Fr Trauner of IMBC - 3rd Sunday in Lent.
Posted on 11th March 2020 at 11:10
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
Lent is a time of grace, “tempus acceptabile, the acceptable time” as Holy Church has taught us with the words of St Paul in last Sunday’s Epistle (2Cor 6). “Behold, now is the day of salvation; in these days therefore let us approve ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in fastings, in watchings, and in love unfeigned.” (ad Magn. Ant., Vespers of the 1st Sunday in Lent) Of course we need to live in a Christian manner all the time. But according to the debility of the human condition we cannot always progress at full speed! This is true for the physical life and for the spiritual life as well. Therefore God gives us through His Church different periods of penance: Lent in the first place; the Ember days and several Vigil days in the second place.
In order to make the efforts of our prayers and good works truly fruitful – so we have said last Sunday – we must regret our sins properly and make reparation for them.
The next step is therefore to briefly speak about the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
Holy Church prescribes that all Catholics must go to Confession at least once a year, that is, if they have sinned mortally. Unfortunately mortal sin can hardly be avoided over time by those who, although they have the possibility to go to Confession regularly, do not make use of this opportunity.
Another of the Church’s commandments prescribes that all Catholics must receive Holy Communion at Easter. Although no particular moment in time is prescribed for Confession, it will naturally go together with the fulfillment of the precept of the Pascal Communion. For this Communion the time is prescribed, namely between Palm Sunday and the Sunday after Easter! (According to Canon Law the local ordinary could extend this period, but not beyond the 4th Sunday of Lent or Trinity Sunday.) It is normal, then, that all Catholics take the appropriate means in order to receive Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, the day when Our Lord instituted the Sacrament most holy, or on Easter Sunday, the greatest feast day of the year; and that they go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.
True contrition for sins committed is the heart and core of the Sacrament of Confession. As everyone should know, any true contrition is such regret for sins as is motivated by a supernatural motive. If this motive is charity, then we speak of perfect contrition: we regret our sins because they have offended God who is the supreme good worthy of all love. If we regret our sins merely for another supernatural motive – such as the ugliness of sin, fear of the eternal or temporal punishment due to sin – then our contrition is imperfect. Imperfect contrition is sufficient in order to make a good and valid Confession, but of course we should always try to excite ourselves to perfect contrition. – Be it said that outside sacramental Confession, only perfect contrition obtains the immediate remission of sin from God. Therefore it may be the indispensable means for souls to be saved, in case their life is in danger and they cannot have a priest to whom they could confess their sins!
The person who makes a sacramental Confession – the penitent – needs to express that he regrets his sins. This happens through different means.
The manner of accusing one’s sins can be a good indicator or a clear expression of contrition. Therefore one should confess his sins with humility and firmly – not in a manner narrating indifferent or trivial actions; not in an impersonal manner (“one sometimes does this or that...”), but clearly and firmly accusing himself: “I have done this… I have done that...”. After all, Confession was instituted by Our Lord in the manner of a tribunal where the priest judges whether or not the penitent truly regrets his sins – so a clear and unfeigned accusation is quite necessary and conducive to making a good Confession.
Names of other persons should not be mentioned in Confession – let alone the presumable sins of other persons. Also details unnecessary to the Confession should be left out – only such conditions that change the nature or the gravity of sins are to be mentioned. Particularly when it comes to sins against the VIth and XIth commandments no unnecessary details must be mentioned. A minor fault to be avoided is either excusing one’s sins; or for the penitent to do the exhortation part in stating his pious thoughts. Try to leave something for the priest to say…
In the practical order I want to remind you that you should use a definite and traditional method of making your Confession. There are many different ways of making a Confession – which prayer to say when entering the confessional, what to say when you have finished your accusation, what to say before you leave etc. - The priest is not all-knowing, so you should mention your age and life condition (whether you are single, married, married but living in separation from your spouse…) before you begin with the Confession properly speaking. Also you need to mention how long ago was your last Confession; and that you have received absolution and accomplished the sacramental penance after Confession.
The sacramental penance is the prayer or the good works imposed by the priest after you have accused yourself of your sins. It obtains a particular remission of temporal punishments since it connected to the Sacrament. This means that the penance must be accomplished as the priest told you and you accepted it. It must be done as soon as possible. If the penance is to be done over a period of time, this does not keep the penitent from receiving Holy Communion during this time (unless the priest has stated otherwise), as long as the penitent is resolved to accomplish the ongoing penance. You should make it clear to the priest in Confession that you accept the penance imposed. Sometimes a penitent does not understand what penance the priest tells him to do. Then he needs to ask the priest to repeat himself; or eventually to change the penance if it is something the penitent cannot do! If a penitent has been slow or forgetful in doing his penance, he is under the strict obligation to still do it and to complete it. Willfully delaying to do the imposed penance is a sin, venial or mortal according to the importance of the given penance. A penitent can ask the priest to give him a greater sacramental penance if he likes to do so, being given that it has a greater effect in taking away temporal punishments.
St Paul reminds us in the Epistle with much insistence that God has created us to be holy, He wants our sanctification above all. In the Gospel we see Our Lord in his Transfiguration. The three Apostles who will also be the witnesses of his agony in Gethsemane catch a glimpse of his divine glory shining through his human body. Our sanctification very much hinges on the good or bad use we make of the Sacraments. Confession is one of only two Sacraments which we can and should receive often, so let us make good use of it.
So let us check on our way of confessing our sins. It will never be easy to go to Confession. But it is true also that Confession, at least sometimes, is a foretaste of Heaven where Our Lord grants us great light and consolation when we cooperate more fervently with the graces he offers us.
Let us proceed “per Crucem ad lucem – through the Cross towards the light”.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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