Saturday, 19 December 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent: homily on the Sacrament of Penance

I had the good fortune this evening to hear a homily devoted to the Sacrament of Penance. This was being delivered quite deliberately in advance of an Advent reconciliation service taking place during the coming week, and to which, during the notices at the end of Mass, we were all encouraged to bring a friend or neighbour. When I say this it doesn't mean that I am particularly good at going to Confession, but I did appreciate a homily that spoke rather beautifully and enthusiastically about the Sacrament.

Father started by suggesting that the entrance antiphon of the Mass - "Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Saviour" - was an image of the Sacraments. Each Sacrament is a presence and action of God, made real through a physical form such as water for baptism and bread/wine for the Eucharist. He went on to suggest that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was a Sacrament of the Virgin Mary, since in approaching the Sacrament we need to make a particular choice to turn away from sin and obey the will of the Lord, to make a choice for lowliness. Mary, in the obedience of the Annunciation, is the model par excellence of this obedient attentiveness to the will of God. The Sacrament is also one which demands that we humble ourselves before God; and, of course, in her Magnificat the Virgin Mary shows herself as the lowly servant who recieves the favour of the Lord. The demand for lowliness that the Sacrament makes of us also indicates that it is a Sacrament of childhood.

A motif to which Father referred, and which perhaps can be used to summarise the Sacrament of Penance, was that of TLC - Tender Loving Care. He first of all described the Virgin Mary using this term. She is the subject of  a particular loving choice on the part of God. And it also applies to the Sacrament of Penance, which is a particular moment in which we recieve the loving choice of God for us.

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