Confession or Reconciliation
#ConfessionOrReconciliation is the podcast for March 24, 2019, the Third Sunday in Lent. What a weird story about Pilate killing people and a wall falling on people tell us about Lent. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke #Luke13 #Repentance #Siloam #RabbiEleazar #FigTree #Pride #Confession #Penance #Reconciliation
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (For our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/24/2019 The 3rd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 13:1-9.
What is the purpose of the Sacrament of Confession? I will return to this later.
If this isn’t the weirdest reading in the lectionary, I do not know what is.
We have the story of Pilate killing Galileans being retold to someone whose ministry is centered in Galilee and who will be killed by Pilate. We have a wall falling on some people near the pool of Siloam, of which there is no historical record. So, what to do, what to do? There are four points of evidence that help us figure it out.
First, this set of parables are in a line that are about watchfulness, about the coming of the end time, interpreting the times correctly, settling with your accuser, and then this curious story of two calamities and a fig tree.
Secondly, both stories are about bad things that happen suddenly. Pilate kills some Galileans and does so in a shocking way. In the other, a wall falls on some unsuspecting folks. The people in Jesus’ day, not unsimilar to us, felt that someone’s “chosenness” was exemplified by the life they lived and what happened to them. We hear this upon the sudden and unexpected death of someone sometimes, “Why did this have to happen to her, she was so good and full of life?”
Third, the story involved both Galileans and Jerusalemites. This means that the story is about both Gentiles and Jews, respectively. In other words, it is about all of us.
Fourth, the focus is on repentance. Jesus’ message when he hears about the people speculating if those who were killed were less deserving than those who are still alive, a really bizarre notion if you ask me, warns the people not to be so presumptuous. Our lives could be snatched from us in a moment. Why are we measuring ourselves against others and giving ourselves passing grades? It is a futile effort in pride and false assurance. There is only one assurance, and that is in the death and resurrection from the Galilean who died at the hands of Pilate on the Cross.
The fact of the matter is that this parable, I think above all others, addresses the fact that there is evil in the world. People will do evil things and there will be others, who through no fault of their own, are killed as a result of these people who do evil things. Chemical spills into water tables, drunk driving fatalities, sadistic killing of Galileans in some sort of sick sacrificial ceremony, etc.
This passage also gives us a glimpse of the fact that although the earth is wonderful, and life is amazing, they are also in a state of sin. Climate Change, which Christians should believe in because, if not for the science but for this one fact, that we believe that sinful human activity impacts nature leaving all of creation in the grips of original sin, is an example. This passage bears that out: towers fall on people, ice falls from skyscrapers, cranes malfunction, gas lines leak and explode homes, etc. The creation and all that is within it is subject to death and destruction. These are facts. Jesus faces them head on.
What is the response of people of faith to a world that has evil in it and is subject to death and destruction? We who believe in heaven, hell, the renewal of all life at the Second Coming, we believe that the proper response is to live a life of repentance. Luke Timothy Johnson, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, recounts that Rabbi Eleazar is quoted in the Mishna, the oral tradition of what the Torah means, as saying that we ought to repent one day before we die. His followers replied that we do not know when we are going to die. Rabbi Eleazar responds, and I paraphrase, “Exactly.”
The life of a Christian is one of always saying we are sorry. I say this because repentance is to turn from a life that has sin it. It is to move away from our sinful ways, which requires examination of ourselves. Repentance requires humility and a grounded sense of self. I tell people in spiritual direction that humility knows both your gifts given from God in your talents and your faults exemplified in your sins. Yet, we often misunderstand the purpose of saying we are sorry to God.
God wants us to say we are sorry for our sins so that he can forgive us. We often forget this. We focus on the part we don’t like: admitting we are wrong. If you don’t think this is true, then of the names we have for the Sacrament of Penance, why is it that we refer to it with the name that focuses on our shame: “Confession”? There is a much better name for the Sacrament: “Reconciliation.” As priests, we are trained to focus on the bravery of the penitent. We admire people who are so good as to repent. Our training is to focus on giving penances that are helpful to change the life of the penitent who is suffering from their sins. The purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to set people free, to absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
I know that when I was a protestant I was taught that I could go directly to God with my sins and didn’t need a middle man, as if confessing to a priest was a bad thing. What I discovered upon becoming a Catholic was that God worked through the Sacrament in a tangible way through the priest. I heard the words audibly. I felt the compassion and empathy from God presently and not just within as a sort of self assurance. I am at a loss as to why we, who are given this beautiful gift of being forgiven, attend the Sacrament so infrequently. Ideally, we should attend to Confession once per month. Why? So that we can live a life that is grounded, true to ourselves and God, and a life that knows the joy of forgiveness, the joy of repentance.
My theory as to why we don’t is because we have some form of outlook like those who bring the story of the victims of Pilate and the victims of the Wall of Siloam to Jesus. We have a sense that we don’t really need to confess anything. We have a foolish pride that doesn’t want to admit that we are human. In the words of Jesus, “unless you repent, you will likewise perish,” that is, you will die unprepared.
In Lent, we dress the Church in the color of repentance, purple. We drain the baptismal font to remind us of the dryness of life without God. We focus on our sins to remind us of our dependence upon the Almighty. Yet, we do all of these things to lead us to Easter and our personal Easter. We are heading toward a life of being free from sin, free from guilt, free from effects of evil.
Although, we are not free from the impact of evil, we can be free from the effects of it. We can know salvation in the living God. He is the one who sets us free by giving us a second chance that continually repeats until we die. So, what will your choice be? Will you repent? If so, why not take an inventory, admit your wrongs, and then be set free of them through repentance in the confession of your sins? Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian