Perhaps the most important point today is simply this: whatever evil you have done, God is waiting there, in the confessional, to forgive you. And that’s what happens in the story Jesus tells us today. Here we have two guys: a guy who always does the right thing; and a guy who has been doing a lot of wrong things. And he’s not just a little sinner. By his actions, at least, this man is corrupt and rotten:- he steals large sums of money from the public; he lies and lies and lies; and he bullies people. Yet one day it hits him: I’m a real pain in the neck to people; I hate the way I am; and – as Pope Francis has reminded the mafia – if I don’t change my life, I’m going to burn in hell. So he goes to confession: and he says his Act of Contrition resolving to change his life: God be merciful to me, a sinner: and – what does the text say? This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God.
This is one of the things that make Christianity better than anything else: why, in contrast to the despair and intolerance sowed by radical atheist secularism, Christianity offers true and eternal Hope and confidence. Because, unlike us, Jesus is the unlimited co-eternal Son of God, and, unlike us, there will never be a sin he will not forgive if I sincerely repent of it. In such a way that its almost scandalous. And we might feel tempted to say, Father, that’s not fair: there must be some things which are unforgiveable, because sometimes horrible things can be done to people. Well, Jesus tells us two things here: one – don’t worry: the impenitent evil will get the punishment that is coming to them: The Lord turns his face against the wicked to destroy their remembrance from the earth. And two – if someone recognises the gravity of what they have done, and begs God’s pardon, and seriously seeks to make amends and change their life – why should God not forgive that? If God should not forgive them, then neither should he forgive us.
God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it: he forgives us because he really does have compassion. As he tells us today: The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants. Those who hide in him shall not be condemned. Those who hide in the heart of Jesus in the confessional shall not be condemned. The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds we heard in the first reading. So whatever you have done – if you’ve stolen from work, or slept with people you shouldn’t, or had an abortion, or if you’ve cursed God, or your are struggling with porn, or haven’t been to confession for 30 years – come! Don’t be afraid: you are far more precious to God than anyone else is to you! Confession not only removes the sin, it also gives the strength to love, and to avoid sin in the future. It makes us a good person, a light to others. And this is the reward for humility: the man who humbles himself will be exalted. That’s what Jesus says. When we give our rubbish to God, he burns away all that is evil, purifies what is good, and gives it back to us noble and strong and beautiful.
This is why this whole embarassment thing – please don’t let it stop you from regularly going to confession. A lot of people seem to think, Oh no, I can’t tell Father my sins, I’m so embarassed. Seriously, in a certain sense we don’t care what your sins are: priests do care that we sin, because its evil – but we aren’t curious about the content because, like all sin, it’s boring and unattractive. What priests do care about is that we sincerely apologise to God for our sins in confession – which is the ordinary way Jesus has arranged for us to be forgiven – and that they can absolve us – take them away completely, and send us away with a new heart, a whole heart.
So please don’t be afraid, get these evils off your heart and out of your life, and encounter the heart of Jesus in confession.