Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Forgiveness
"To err is human; to forgive divine!" So wrote Alexander Pope, English poet and essayist (1688 - 1744) in his Essay on Criticism. Our thoughts today centre on forgiveness.

Isaiah 43:18-19.21-22.24-25 - As they return from the exile in Babylon, the Israelites acknowledge their infidelity and seek forgiveness - "You have burdened Me with your sins; it is I; it is I who must blot out everything and not remember your sins".

Corinthians 1:18-22: - In the seemingly endless quarrels among themselves and with himself, Paul, in today's readings adopts a more conciliatory attitude by stating that all he wants is that everyone, himself included, should reflect the goodness of Christ.

Mark2:1-12: - In this passage we see Jesus looking beyond the physical disability of the paralytic to the more serious condition of sin; by asserting his power to forgive sin, Christ creates a dramatic confrontation that has given encouragement to generations of sinners since.

Point 1: Have you ever bogged your car? If so you will recall how it happened and how you felt. As you recognised the danger, you eased the car forward and then went into reverse. Still the wheels sank more deeply. A bit more acceleration only makes the matter worse until you realise that, without outside help, you are stuck!

There are other areas of life in which we can get bogged and feel the same sense of helplessness, and we need to be rescued. Addiction immediately comes to mind. It happens when we fall into the habit of sin; we become bogged down spiritually. Sin touches each of us, but not always in the same way. For some it is a problem of justice; for another it may be hatred, lust, pride, selfishness or anyone of the so called deadly sins. Whatever the fault, if it becomes habitual, then, spiritually, we become bogged down and we need outside help to become mobile again in the sight of God. An appeal for help enables us to free ourselves from the mistakes of the past. We can begin again, if not with an entirely clean slate, at least with enough credits for a fresh start.

Point 2: For the last few Sundays, our attention has focused on the extraordinary power of restoration inherent in Jesus' ability to heal both physically and spiritually wounded bodies. Today, the process of forgiveness is outlined - the appeal for help, the words of forgiveness followed by the resolve to live again. We do not have to remained paralysed by our sinful habits; we do not need to be haunted by guilt and recriminations for the past. The process of forgiveness is set in motion by our saying "sorry"; Jesus says the words of forgiveness, and we start again, hopefully, like the cured paralytic, with a leap of joy. This procedure is available to us today in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Conclusion: In the past, for some, this sacrament was a 'pro forma' exercise in which a person ducked into the "box", mumbled some vague accusations, received a perfunctory penance to return to the wide world with unchanged attitudes. Fortunately, that approach has largely changed, and I believe, that, without too much tinkering by the "experts" the practice of confession will again come back into vogue. There continues to be profound psychological and spiritual wisdom in confessing and receiving absolution. As the ancient Roman scribe, Publius, commented in his Natural History, written in the first century BC, "Confession of our faults is the next thing to innocence", a thought confirmed by the later axiom -"Confession is good for the soul".

Scriptural reference: "As for me, I said, "Lord, have mercy on me; heal my soul for I have sinned against you'" (Psalm 40:5)