Saturday, February 25, 2017


Earlier this week, in preparing a talk on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I reflected on one common way of thinking about the sacrament: our souls are washed clean of guilt and, in the eyes of God, our sins are annihilated. I thought of the option on the pull-down menu in my computer’s search engine: “Erase Search History.” With a left-click all the searches I’ve made disappear as if  they’d never happened.

Then I came across this rather provocative idea: “In the strict sense, our sins are not obliterated as if they had never happened. God does not erase our history.

Christ reigning from the cross
Think of the main idea of the Paschal Mystery, the central mystery of our faith: By means of his passion, death and resurrection, Christ has redeemed us. He overcame death, so that it no longer holds power over us. The best-known symbol of our religion, the cross, signifies that Christ’s death has become the means of our salvation. The Paschal Mystery does not say that Christ’s resurrection erased his suffering on the cross, nor does it say that the appearances of the risen Lord obliterated his death.
Christ’s horrible suffering and death, rather than being obliterated, have been completely transformed, and, incredibly, have become the very means of our salvation. St. Paul writes “We know that all things work for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28)”  and St. Augustine adds, “even their sins.” Even our sins work for good! Through Christ’s suffering and death, our sins our transformed, and God uses them as steps toward our salvation. Just as the Almighty draws life from death, he somehow manages to draw good from our sins.

As we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday, then, we might keep in mind the vision of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a personal encounter between me and the Redeeming Christ, the Crucified and Living One. Once I humbly own my sins, he takes them and, far from obliterating them, makes them his own and transforms them into the means of my salvation.

During this Lent, I hope that many of you will join me once again on a forty-day pilgrimage from Ash Wednesday to Easter using the book Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent.


1 comment:

  1. Father, every Lent for the past several years I have pulled out this book and followed your daily journies. They are now becoming familiar to me and are always thought provoking.Thank you for taking the time to get to know me several years ago. It meant a lot to me.