Reconciliation helps us to live Lent with renewed faith Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

In Matthew 9:10-13, the Scribes and Pharisees complain that Christ dines with sinners and tax collectors. They are right. He does. Jesus responds by saying that he has come not to call the righteous, but sinners.

R. Charles Miller wrote that a sinner, as used here, is someone who admits they have sinned and needs God’s forgiveness to help them change. Conversely, the self-righteous think they don’t need forgiveness.

Sharing God's mercy

Christ became flesh and took on a human nature to share the Father’s mercy with us. Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel features three parables of God’s mercy.

In the parable of the Good Shepherd, we represent God's sheep. Christ reveals that we are so valuable that he will leave the 99 sheep (or righteous) in the dangerous wasteland to seek one lost sheep (or sinner). When he finds the lost sheep, the entire community rejoices.

Self-righteousness makes it difficult to follow Christ. Before his conversion, Peter may have been tempted to self-righteousness.

He bragged that the other apostles might deny Christ, but he would never deny him. Christ then predicted that Peter would deny him three times.

By a charcoal fire, Peter did deny Jesus three times. After the third denial as Christ is led to the cross, Peter looked at Jesus. Bloody from beatings and a crown of thorns, Jesus looked into Peter’s eyes. Eyes are the windows of the soul. Instead of condemnation, Peter saw and experienced God’s merciful love in Jesus’ eyes. He went out and wept bitterly.

After the resurrection by another charcoal fire, Peter was reconciled to the Church and commissioned to feed the Church’s lambs and sheep as pope.

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Christ foresaw that we would sin, so he left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us change and become more Christ-like.

According to no. 1465 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when the priest and bishop serve as ministers of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they fulfill the ministry of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Pope Francis said, "The confessional isn’t a torture chamber." It's where we confess our sins, receive God's forgiveness, and renew our relationship with Jesus.

Our culture often tempts us to deny our sins. To fruitfully receive Reconciliation, we must recognize our sins by examining our conscience and confessing our sins.

Then the confessor gives us spiritual direction and assigns a penance. Doing the penance is a sign that we desire to change.

Next, we make an act of contrition. In imperfect contrition, we are sorry for our sins because we fear heaven’s loss and hell’s pains. In perfect contrition, we are sorry because we have offended God, who is all good and deserving of all our love.

We firmly resolve with the help of grace to confess our sins, do penance, amend our life, and avoid occasions of sin. Spiritual reading, retreats, prayer, and a burning desire for heaven strengthen our desire to change.

Easter gift

Forgiveness cost Jesus his life, but he believes we are worth it.

This is why the Church encourages us to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. Reconciliation is Christ’s Easter gift to us. Reconciled with God and each other, we can renew our baptismal promises at Easter and celebrate our hope of resurrection with deepened faith.

The best Easter present that we can give to Jesus is the gift of a purified forgiving and forgiven heart. May our response to Lent's grace help us to offer Jesus this gift at Easter.

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.