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February 25th Readings Reflection: Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Today’s Gospel recounts the calling of St. Matthew and ends with Christ’s beautiful words: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded that we shall one day return to dust. All of us will die someday and face the Eternal Judge. This can be terrifying to think about, for it is at our Particular Judgement—which occurs immediately after our deaths—that the state of our souls will be revealed. We shall either be immediately welcomed into Heaven for all eternity, sent to Purgatory for a time to finish purifying our souls, or (God forbid) condemned to an eternity in Hell.
Earlier this week, I was discussing the Sacrament of Confession with someone, who referred to Our Lord in this sacrament as the Divine Physician. Every single human being ever created—except for Our Lady—is a sinner. We are all spiritually sick and in need of healing by the Divine Physician. God, in His great mercy and infinite love for us, longs for our repentance so that He can restore His grace within our souls (cf. Ez 33:11). As St. John Vianney said, God “is more anxious to forgive our sins than a woman is to carry her baby out of a burning building.”
Despite this, the thought of confessing our sins is rarely easy. We must always remember that the priest in the confessional is acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. When we confess our sins in the confessional, we are not confessing them to a man but to God Himself. St. Therese of Lisieux understood this reality remarkably well for a young child; before her first Confession, she innocently asked if she should tell the priest that she loved him with all her heart, since she would really be talking to Our Lord Himself.
The priest is bound under pain of mortal sin never to reveal the slightest thing told to him in the confessional. This is called the Seal of Confession, and the Church regards it very seriously. Remembering this about Confession can help calm our anxiety about the sacrament. Even though it is not easy, the reward for making a good Confession is the restoration of sanctifying grace in our souls, if it has been lost by mortal sin, and grace to resist future temptation. Even if we are not spiritually dead through mortal sin, Confession heals the sickness caused by our venial sins and helps us avoid sin in the future. The outpouring of grace that we receive in this sacrament is truly amazing and cannot be overstated.
In the words of St. Augustine, “In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide You from myself, not myself from You.” May Christ, the Divine Physician, draw us to Himself during this season of Lent and heal our souls of the infirmities caused by our sins, so that we may one day glorify the Risen Lamb in Heaven for all eternity.