Low Sunday A.D. 2003
"Peace be to you."
This Sunday is often called "Dominica in Albis"
-- "the Sunday in White." More accurately, it is the day on
which, for the first time since their Baptism on Easter, the newly baptized
Christians did not wear their white baptismal robes to church. It was the day on
which they exchanged their robes for the normal dress proper to attending Mass.
That might move us to give some thought to the way we
ourselves attend Mass. This is not the Novus Ordo -- Jesus Christ is truly
present here -- and we should express our reverence properly by our outward
decorum. We live in the tropics, of course, but even then we have some standards
of dress for important events and meeting important people. And that might be
the standard we ourselves should adopt: To dress at least as well for Sunday
Mass as we would if we were going to an important event to meet important people
-- because that's what we are doing.>
Of course, none of us have the right to dress in an
immodest manner -- one designed to arouse the passions of others -- nor in a way
that calls attention to ourselves at the expense of our important Guest. And
ladies, if you can manage it, a hat or a veil is still appropriate.
This Sunday also reminds us that on Easter Sunday evening,
shortly after His Sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, our Lord gave His priests
the power to personally forgive the specific sins of specific individuals.
"Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall
retain, they are retained." We refer to this Sacrament as the Sacrament of
Penance, or simply "Confession." It is a Sacrament we should receive
regularly, and I want to spend a few minutes today talking about how to be
1. We are all responsible for developing an "informed
conscience." That means that we are expected to make a serious effort to
learn what we must and must not do. Ultimately, we are responsible ourselves,
no one else -- not our parents, not our priest, not our teacher -- although
these may help us in our obligation.
At a minimum, this means reading the catechism, and
understanding it. For adults it ought to include other, more advanced, books
on the Catholic Faith. The Catechism, after all, is for Children. Those in
certain professions may require some specialized instruction -- doctors and
nurses, perhaps lawyers and others who give advise to people for a living. You
may want to ask a priest for advice, either in Confession or out. But, please
don't get in the habit of "shopping around" for a priest who will
tell you what you want to hear. Again, you are responsible for your own
2. It is not enough simply to know what is right or wrong, but we also need
to evaluate how well we have followed the right and avoided the wrong. For
this, we should make an examination of conscience. A good idea is to do that
every evening at bed time -- and of course just before we make our confession.
We need to ask ourselves how well we have kept the Commandments and the
Precepts of the Church, how well we have practiced the Virtues and avoided
vice. We ought to be honest with ourselves in asking whether or not we are
making progress against bad habits, and growing in the spiritual life.
3. We need to admit our shortcomings and be sorry for them -- manifesting
"Contrition," as we call it. This is an important element, because
there can be no forgiveness of sin if we are not sorry for it -- and if we
don't intend, at least, to try to avoid sin in the future. At a minimum, we
should be sorry for our sins because they can cause us to loose our eternal
happiness -- we call that "imperfect" contrition.
"Perfect" contrition is what we should strive for -- that is sorrow
for our sins because we love God and know that sin offends Him. We might
develop such perfect contrition be considering the pain and suffering that our
Lord endured on our behalf.
4. Finally, need to make a confession of our sins on a regular basis. As
soon as possible if we are in the state of serious sin. Perhaps once a month,
or more often if we have done nothing seriously wrong. The idea is to grow in
holiness through the graces of the Sacrament -- as prevention, rather than
cure -- to prevent sin, rather than to sin seriously and need forgiveness.
5. It goes without saying that we should perform whatever penance our
confessor gives us, and to offer thanks to God for all the graces of a good
Perhaps, above all, we ought to remember that the
opportunity to make a good Confession is just that, an opportunity. It is not a
chore. How did our Lord introduce it to the Apostles? He said "Peace be to
you." And that is what Confession is -- the opportunity to share in the
peace of Jesus Christ.