April AD 2020
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[Ordinary of the Mass]
“Receive the Holy
Ghost; whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them:
and whose sins
you shall retain, they are retained.”
Today's Gospel passage is set late on Easter Sunday. The
doors are closed, the Apostles are alone, quite probably in a state of
There is a connection between the Passion and
Resurrection, and the priestly power to forgive sins—a connection
between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of Penance.
Indeed, between the Mass and all of the Sacraments.
Prior to the Sacrifice of the Cross, man was dead to
sin. The gates of heaven were closed, none of the good works people did
had any merit in the eyes of God, the Holy Ghost did not dwell within
the hearts of men, there was no forgiveness of sin.. The Cross and
Resurrection changed all that. Our Lord descended into Limbo to bring
the souls of the just to heaven. By Baptism, the life of God could now
come to live in the souls of men. The sin of Adam and Eve had been
atoned for, and the particular sins of men and women could now be
As we have seen in passages which described the reaction
of the Jews when our Lord forgave sins—the forgiveness of sins can come
from God alone. So a very miraculous thing is seen in this Gospel. The
Apostles, who had been give the power to renew the Sacrifice of the
Cross as “other Christs,” now received the power to forgive
sins—likewise as “other Christs.” By virtue of the life‑giving
Sacrifice, they were able to forgive the sins of men, when this seemed
Please note that the Apostles were given the authority to
make a choice; to be selective. They are allowed to forgive, or to not
forgive as they saw fit. This is why the Church demands a Confession of
sins prior to absolution. The priest is required to make a judgement:
does the penitent understand the serious nature of his sins? is he
truly sorry for having committed them? will he take measures to avoid
committing them in the future? what can be done to draw him closer to
God? The priest has to make a decision, and may put off forgiving the
sins of a penitent if he feels that this is necessary.
Of course, the priest may absolve from sins without
Confession if the circumstances warrant: A person who is unconscious
and close to death, a group of people in danger of battle or natural
disaster and unable to confess for lack of time. But, even where this
is permitted, the Church requires that—if we survive—we make a complete
Confession at the very next opportunity.
We should, therefore, prepare to receive the Sacrament by
making a good examination of conscience.
We should reflect on the Commandments and the Laws of the Church, and
determine if we have violated any of them. We should reflect upon the
seriousness of our sins; developing sorrow for them because they offend
We are only fooling ourselves, if we come to Confession
with the intention to withhold some significant sin; or if we have no
sorrow for our sins; or if we intend to go right on committing the same
We may, of course, not be perfectly sorry; and we may
know that we will unwillingly fall again; and our faulty memories may
not recall each and every sin—but we are obliged to try our best in all
And please remember that the priest is absolutely
forbidden to discuss your confession with anyone else. He has heard it
all before, and will not think any less of you for the sins you
confess. On the contrary, he knows that he too is a sinner, and, any
good priest will have the joy of Christ in his heart over the return of
a sinner. Even if you have had to confess the same sin many times
We should make our Confession regularly. Even if we have
no serious sins to confess—venial sins or previously confessed sins are
adequate matter for the Sacrament. When we let a few months go between
Confessions, we are apt to treat sin as a less serious matter, and more
likely to fall into serious sin.
So I urge you to take the events of today's Gospel to
heart. Our Lord died for us collectively, and gave us the means to
ensure our individual salvation through the Mass and the Sacraments.
Please make use of them.
This Sacrament of Penance
1. restores the soul to grace and God's
2. blots out sins, no matter how serious, no
matter how many.
3. and restores the peace and joy of a good
Just as the Apostles were in a state of anxiety at being
alone without our Lord, and were restored when He said “Peace be with
you;” We too can be restored to the Peace of Christ through the graces
of a good Confession.
Don't put it off!