Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mk 2:5-12

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"—he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone."

As the Olympics are going on, I've had many an occasion to hear the United State's national anthem. It occurred to me the great sense of honor that is payed to the flag and to the national anthem. There is a strict code of practice in how to deal with the flag, and if you live down south, you're apt to get stopped by an old lady in the store while carrying a flag and being made sure to be of able knowledge on flag etiquette. If you are, you may even get an “oh good boy!” (Of course this was a few years ago...nowadays, no one would bat an eye if I were pushing a stroller with a toddler and newborn). And to the anthem, you stand up, and take off your hat if you're wearing one, and you put your hand on your heart regardless.

All of these are fine practices, and America, with its faults, is a really good nation and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But despite that, it is only a temporal power. Why then, do we pay more heed to the song of a temporal authority than we do to the Sacrament that restores the very life that is immortal?

It is no coincidence that we keep hearing about this now. In a few weeks, Lent begins. Lent is the time to go to Confession in preparation for the death of Christ and His subsequent Resurrection, and we should usher in the Resurrection with a clean slate.

To draw another reference to the United States, take the Seal of the President of the United States. In its left talons it has arrows, representing weaponry and war. In fact, I believe the eagle faces towards the arrows during times of war. In its right talons it has the olive branch, the symbol of peace. This is pretty significant and pertinent to symbolizing the Sacrament of Confession. It is a weapon against sin and the evils of this world. It completely washes away the stain of sin. In a world of original sin where “Satan has demanded you”, we would be totally helpless if it weren’t for this sacrament where God, through a priest, grants his forgiveness to those who are sorry, will to do penance, and promise to do all to avoid it again.

Confession is also the olive branch. Sin disables our ability to live godly lives. It erodes at our relationship with God. Mortal sin absolutely shatters our relationship with God. When in mortal sin, it is impossible for us to know God and to share in His joy. This is why the olive branch is so important. It is we who met the three necessary pre-requisites for mortal sin and by our own doing lost the love of God. Yet it is God who is always willing to extend to us forgiveness. If there is contrition, a will to do penance to show the extent to which we want this forgiveness and a resolve not to do it again, than time has no bearing. There is no such thing as it being “too late”. As Isaiah says, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not”.