In the teaching of the Catholic Church, a mortal (or “deadly”) sin is a gravely sinful act, which can lead to damnation if a person does not repent of the sin before death. The term “mortal sin” is thought to be derived from the New Testament. Specifically, it has been suggested that the term comes from the fifth chapter of the Letter of St. John:16–17. In this verse, the author of that Epistle seriously states, “there is such a thing as deadly sin.” A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving grace. An example of such a sin is the failure to attend Sunday Mass. The teaching about this seriousness can be found in the following quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason…. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” CCC #2181. Yes, this is serious business. But despite its gravity, a person truly can repent of having committed a mortal sin and be forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. Such repentance is the primary requisite for forgiveness and absolution. “Perfect” contrition is the means by which we seek to restore our relationship with God and are sorry for our sins not because of the punishment due to them (imperfect contrition), but because they truly offend a loving God. Additionally, there must also be a resolution to confess all mortal sins that have not been confessed and absolved previously in the Sacrament of Penance. A resolution to confess these sins should be made with an act of perfect contrition.
Next week, specifically on Thursday evening, March 22nd, we will have the opportunity to confess our sins and be reconciled with our Lord and His people through the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Penance (sometimes unofficially but more popularly known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation). It is the ultimate earthly experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy. Not only does it free us from our various sins, but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. In fact, through it we actually are liberated to be forgivers. Perhaps we can best comprehend this in the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to His Church, and it is through the wondrous Sacrament of Penance, God’s unique gift to us, that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In the very act of confession, we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in His presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With the absolution given us by the priest, we are reconciled to God and His Church. This Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments in some way bring us an experience of the mercy that comes from Christ’s dying and rising, it is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation that is the particular bestowal of God’s loving mercy.
There will be a number of priests who will join us at the 7 PM service to take away our sins and lift us up from the weight of our misdeeds. I invite you to come, especially as a family, to this Penance Service, and to partake of the timely Lenten opportunity to unburden your hearts and make yourselves ready to be immersed in the joys of the true meaning of Easter.
This Sunday afternoon, come and enjoy a delightful musical performance at 3 p.m., put on for the benefit of our parishioners and friends by Eric Keiper, our gifted and well-respected Music teacher in our school and our parish Director of Liturgical Music. Eric was the person responsible for putting together last Advent’s inspiring musical presentation, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” in our church – a performance that was well-acclaimed by those who attended it. I’m sure this Sunday’s program will be a “top-notch” one, too, and I hope that you take time to get away from the “tube” to enjoy it.
This weekend, we are happy to have Steve Dudenhoefer from our parish mission in Guatemala speak to us at each of the Masses about the situation there at the Father Tom Moran School. He will give us a progress report on the growth and development of the students’ programs and will tell us of their needs in the jungle. Then, next weekend, (Palm Sunday), we will take up our annual collection to help the children who board at the school there to have food in their stomachs each day. As we help the children get an education in the jungle, the more likelihood that they will not need to scamper to our southern border in order to provide a living for their families and community.
Congratulations to the recently confirmed-in-the-Faith students from our parish who were called this past Friday to give further witness to the Faith in which they were baptized! May they not see their Confirmation ceremony as a conclusion to their learning and practicing of the Catholic Faith, but rather as an opportunity to deepen their baptismal commitment and living their gifts more fully in service to Christ and His people.