Easter Duty

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/03/13 at 12:00 AM

In our Catholic Tradition, we have a custom that we call the “Easter Duty.” It is the requirement as a Catholic to receive Holy Communion at least once per year.
Recognizing that one must not approach the Blessed Sacrament with any serious sins on one’s soul, it is therefore incumbent upon Catholics to also go to confession at least once per year to prepare properly for receiving our blessed Lord in Holy Communion.
As this was typically done in the past around Easter, this requirement of confessing and receiving Holy Communion became known as our “Easter Duty.”
And Holy Mother Church put this requirement in place because she desires all her children to receive the manifold graces available to us in the sacraments, most especially the forgiveness of our sins.
As I mentioned last Sunday, in these weeks leading up to the holy and penitential season of Lent, Holy Mother Church presents us with readings that focus on sin and its devastating consequences with the hope that we will realize our sins and confess them humbly.
And as was the case with last Sunday’s Gospel, today’s Gospel also draws the connection between sin and sickness.
Sin is the free, deliberate and knowing transgression of a divine law. It is an action that drives the love of God from our hearts and lives. Fundamentally, sin is an abuse of the free will that God gives us so that we are capable of loving Him and one another.
The upshot of sin is that it hurts us and those around us. Every time we sin, we injure others and ourselves; we become spiritually sick. This is the sense we get from our readings today.
Think about our responsorial psalm: “Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.” Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist doesn’t ask for forgiveness, but for healing? While we all know that we need to have our sins forgiven, we need more than just forgiveness!
Whenever we sin we need God’s healing as well. That’s because there is a connection between sin and suffering. They go hand-in-hand. Sin always produces suffering of some kind, and therefore we need both healing and forgiveness whenever we sin.
We also see this connection in the Gospel story. Today we read about the paralytic who is lowered down on a stretcher through a hole in the roof by four of his friends so that Jesus can heal him. And what does the Gospel say?
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.” Christ sees the physical suffering of this man and knows this man needs His mercy and forgiveness. So He forgives the man’s sins and heals him of his infirmity.
And in this wonderful act, we see the absolute power God has over sin!
Keep in mind that for the Israelites, sickness of any type was due to personal sin. When thescribes heard Jesus saying to the sick man that his sins were forgiven, they very naturally
thought He was blaspheming.

As the Gospel relates, Jesus knows what’s going on in the hearts of the scribes; He knowsthey’re looking for a sign from Him. Since once cannot see forgiveness taking place, He
cures the effects of sin, proving His power to forgive sin as well.

As we consider our Lord’s power over sin, we are given much hope in our first reading, inwhich Isaiah the prophet receives a message of mercy from our Lord, who tells him not to worry about the sins of the past.
The Lord says that not only will He forgive our sins, but He will forget them. The Lord likens His mercy to a spring gushing forth in a barren desert.
And that’s the way it is with our souls when we are in sin. As we receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, His mercy flows like a river through the wasteland of our sinfulness, reviving our souls and bringing us back to life.
Rescued from the eternal death that mortal sin wreaks and returned to a state of grace, our souls are then able to bear the good fruits of virtue that help us along the path to salvation and give rightful glory to God.
Knowing that the forgiveness that we find in the sacraments is the most important form of healing we can ever experience, I’ve decided to add an extra hour of confession each week to our liturgical schedule here at St. Ann’s.
So in addition to our Saturday afternoon confessions, beginning this Thursday evening, we will begin having confessions from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. And so I invite you to come receive God’s healing mercy that soothes and cures us whenever we injure ourselves through sin.
There is one other aspect of the Gospel story today that we must not neglect: the fact that the paralytic man required the help of four friends to receive our Lord’s healing mercy.
Sin can be absolutely debilitating. It can cripple and blind us such that in the worst cases we become unable to help ourselves. As last Sunday’s Gospel story of the leper shows, sin also isolates us.
If we truly love our Lord and believe in His mercy, and if we truly love our fellow man and hope for his salvation as well as our own, then we must be willing to pick up those paralyzed by their sins and take them to Jesus.
We do this by being willing to provide encouragement, sound advice, and fraternal correction to those whom we know are in sin. Of course this must be done with a gentleness and love that are readily apparent to our erring brethren, and not with judgment or condescension.
But as our Gospel also shows, getting the paralyzed sinner to Christ often requires great effort. Sometimes when we approach our loved ones about their sins, they become angry or resistant.
In those cases we must pray and fast for them; we must be willing to suffer for them. At times strong words said in love may be needed to bring a hardened sinner to repentance.
What is most important is that we remember that it is in being steadfastly charitable thatGod’s grace is best able to work through us for the sake of the sinner.
Our sacrifices, prayers, and willingness to suffer for the sake of another so often procure thegrace that breaks through the roof of pride and recalcitrance guarding the heart of the serious
sinner so that he might have an encounter with our Lord’s healing mercy.

Brothers and sisters, as we prepare to enter into the holy and penitential season of Lent thisweek, let us examine ourselves well so that we might know our sins and humbly confess

But let us be willing, as well, to help our erring brethren paralyzed by their sins. With greatcharity and patience, let us be willing to pick them up and take them to Jesus so that they, too, might come to experience His healing mercy.

19 February 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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