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Caritas Christi urget nos

Caritas Christi urget nos

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the woman who anointed Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lk 7:36-50).  In his book, Ways of Praying, Father John Edwards presents this woman as ‘the patron of Confession-goers’.  He explains,

She knew two facts: first that she was a sinner; secondly, that Christ was to be found in the supper-room of Simon the Pharisee.  Her grasp of these two facts resulted in her having to enter the room, go through the guests, throw herself at Christ’s feet and kiss them.’

It wasn’t easy for her.  She had ‘a bad name in the town’.  It wasn’t possible to ask Our Lord for a quiet word in his ear; circumstances dictated that she show her contrition in front of the Pharisee and his friends… but ‘the love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14) and she found the courage to endure scornful looks and wagging tongues because she knew what was on offer through Christ.

Going to confession is never easy.  I suppose the day we do find it easy and it bothers us not one jot is the day we need to re-examine our contrition, conscience and motivation.

Father Edwards continues:

‘Knowledge of the same two facts results in the Catholic going to Confession.  We would have mistrusted the woman’s sorrow if, knowing Christ was there, she had contented herself with telling God in her heart that she was sorry – and going on to do the shopping.  Similarly one might mistrust the grasp a Catholic had of the two facts – his sinfulness and Christ’s presence in the Church – if his sorrow was not externalised in ‘touching Christ’ in the Church, at least fairly frequently.’ (p.48)

He is a little blunt, isn’t he?  Those of us who were fortunate enough to attend the Day of Prayer he led for us in May will know more of this candid tongue.  In his book, he even goes on to say what he means by ‘fairly frequently’ (monthly for weekly Mass-goers; fortnightly or weekly for those who ‘go to daily Mass and live a recognizable prayer-life’).  Yes, he is blunt and yet he speaks the truth: week after week the opportunity of Christ’s healing touch is there in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and is there not something lacking in our awareness of our sinfulness or our trust in Christ’s healing presence if we don’t build that Sacrament into the routine of our spiritual lives?

Finally, as His Holiness arrives on these shores, I must share another quote from Fr Edwards’ book for your reflection:

Pope John Paul II said when he visited Ireland: ‘It was with great joy that I received the news that the Irish Bishops had asked all the faithful to go to Confession as part of a great spiritual preparation for my visit to Ireland… You could not have given me a greater joy or a greater gift.  And if today there is someone who is still hesitating, for one reason or another, please remember this: the person who knows how to acknowledge the truth of guilt, and also asks Christ for forgiveness, enhances his own human dignity and manifests spiritual greatness.  I take this occasion to ask all of you to continue to hold this Sacrament of penance in special honour, for ever.  Let all of us remember the words of Pius XII in regard to frequent Confession: “Not without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was this practice introduced into the Church.”’

It is never easy, but courage!  He is calling you.

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