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Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus' Compassion: Greater than Greatest Sin

by Kathleen Blease

As Catholics, we receive a great blessing that only Christ can give us: Complete absolution of our sins. He cleanses our souls and He removes the chains that bind us.

God’s love is greater than any sin we can commit. Any. Can you imagine that?

When I think about this, I recall when I was in high school. I was sitting in world history class at the votech where I was enrolled in the engineering program. An administrator popped her head into the door and said to my teacher, Mr. De Beauclaire, “I thought you’d like to know that the Pope has been shot.” I was stunned. And then later, I was stunned by a second image. It was of John Paul II listening to his attacker’s confession. John Paul softly drapped his hand around this man’s neck and pulled him close. No one knows exactly what he said, but their expressions showed compassion and gratitude. It was all over the news. John Paul was gentle and compassionate; he was truly the hands of Christ.

I can’t but wonder what would have happened to Judas Iscariot had he not committed suicide, and then, upon Jesus’ resurrection asked Him for His forgiveness. It is just something to think about. Think about Peter, too, denying our Lord at His crucifixion. Then seeing the Lord after His Resurrection and being elated and filled with the Holy Spirit. About his becoming the Bishop of Rome, our first Pope, then dying for Christ, crucified upside down at his request, as he believed he was not worthy to die in the same way Christ died. How he was moved by Christ’s forgiveness and compassion! How moved would Judas had been had he asked for forgiveness, considering that his sin was far greater than Peter's? How joyful would he have been to see Christ and receive His forgiveness for his heinous act?

As Catholics, we are the recipients of the complete faith, just as Christ handed it to Peter, the same faith into which He ordained His Twelve Apostles. The Catholic Church’s seven sacraments come directly from scripture. None of them are man-made. They are Christ-made and thus divine! Complete and Divine!

We receive Baptism to receive the light of Christ (John 1:29-34). We receive the Eucharist—Christ Himself, spiritually and physically (Matt 26: 26-30). And in receiving Him, we are never alone carrying our daily cross. In Confirmation (Acts 2: 1-13), we are sealed with the Holy Spirit forever and ever, the same Holy Spirit that moved Peter and the Apostles on Pentecost. It is our personal Pentecost. In Reconciliation (also called Confession and Penance), we receive complete absolution of our sins (John 20:19-23). Our souls are cleansed and purified.

In addition, we can also receive the guidance and intercession of Mother Mary, St. Joseph and all the saints of Heaven. We need only ask. Just ask. That’s all. Imagine!

Just what did we do to deserve all this? We did nothing. It’s God who does all this, because He is crazy in love with us. He loves His Creation so much, He has not only given us Christ, He gave us His Church. This is why we say, “Glory to God in the Highest!” And the priest says, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation!” And it is pleasing to Him that we come to Him as His people.

In John 20: 19-23, Jesus appeared to the Apostles after His Resurrection and ordained them, saying, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The gospel continues with: And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Now, Christ didn’t say to His Apostles, our first priests, “Go tell the people that if they pray to God for His forgiveness, then they are forgiven.” No. There is one more requirement He made. An apostle must hear the confession. Jesus specifically instructed, “Whose sins YOU forgive are forgiven…”. And He preceded that instruction with “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He instructed them to sit in His place. This is why we Catholics go to a priest, our modern day Apostles, to confess our sins to God. It is the only way we can receive absolution.

Think about it: In the Eucharist, we receive Christ Himself in a physical form. And in Reconciliation, we receive the love and mercy of Christ Himself…directly!

Let’s also think about what we are doing when we go to Confession. First, we stand in line, right? By this very simple act, we are doing something remarkable and pleasing to God. We are making a public statement that we recognize we are sinners and we need God’s grace and mercy. We also make an examination of conscience and ask ourselves, “What have I done to walk away from God or offend Him?” This is a significant step to building our character. To admit that we have done wrong, and to actively try to improve upon this. Then we confess our sins out loud…well, perhaps in a whisper…which can be very humbling.

We can be cleansed. We need only ask. And then when we receive Holy Communion, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ—the very essence of Christ himself—we are then letting Him reside in vessels (that’s us) that have been cleansed and purified.

If it has been a long time since your last Confession, please don’t worry. Priests today are very happy to help you. Just tell your confessor that it’s been a long while and you would like his help. I’ve been told by a priest that when someone comes to him in this way, it is a joyful time for him. After all, one of Christ’s lambs is finding the way home!

If you’d like to hear from a very worthy witness of Christ’s compassion, maybe you’d like to watch the conversion story of Fr. Corapi on You Tube. It all began with his confession after twenty years lost. Simply click on the title of this article, above. Or click on this link I hope you enjoy his story as much I. God Bless.

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