NOTE: In some dioceses, on the Seventh Sunday of Easter the Ascension is celebrated. For the reflection for the Ascension, click HERE.
The Seventh Sunday of Easter [C]
Acts 7:55-60 + Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20 + John 17:20-26
“… so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you ….”
Today’s Gospel Reading is set at the Last Supper. In His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17, Jesus prays to God the Father about matters that are central to the life of a disciple and the life of the Church. One of these matters is unity: man’s unity with God, and the unity of human persons with each other.
The greatest threat to unity with God and our neighbors is sin. Our sins pierce our souls as they pierced the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Because of this, our souls can become like sieves, unable to contain the grace of the Holy Spirit’s Presence and His seven gifts. So our Christian life poses to us the struggle of allowing our souls to be re-created. Here we need to reflect upon what it means for us to be “born again”. This means first being washed clean of sin in Baptism, and from there on out it means being renewed in our relationship with God through the Sacrament of Confession.
Some people claim that believing in the Sacrament of Confession cheapens the meaning of our Christian faith. They claim that being able to go to Confession over and over again encourages people to sin. Of course, this makes about as much sense as saying that being able to take a shower every day encourages people to get dirty and stink. God gave us the Sacrament of Confession because he knows that without Him, we can do nothing. But with Him, we can do anything He asks.
It’s always confusing, then, to hear people talk about the Sacrament of Confession as an easy way out of sinning. After all, what are the alternatives? If God didn’t truly establish the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are only three basic alternatives. The first is that there’s no such thing as sin. The second is that there is sin, but that as long as we have at some point accepted Christ as our personal Savior, our sins don’t matter because we are already saved. The third is that there is sin, and when a Christian sins he or she needs to turn to God for forgiveness, but that nonetheless this forgiveness can be obtained simply by praying directly to God. When you put these three alternatives up against the Catholic’s need to confess mortal sins through the Sacrament of Confession, it hardly makes sense to say that Catholics have an easy way out.
Even if we put reason and logic aside, however, we can also look at our relationship with God from a more personal perspective. If you reflect upon the most intimate relationships that you have in your life—whether with a spouse, parents, children, or friends—you can ask yourself in what manner you seek to be reconciled with those persons when you have offended them in a serious way.
We might consider several alternatives. First, we could pretend that we had never harmed the other: that we have no need to ask forgiveness. At times perhaps we do act this way, but we know it’s not honest.
Second, we could admit that we had harmed the other, but then claim that as long as we had professed our love for the other at some point in the past, that they will automatically forgive us without our asking. At times perhaps we do act this way, but we know that it’s presumptuous.
Third, we could admit that we had harmed the other, and know that we need to ask for forgiveness, but then seek this forgiveness in roundabout ways: for example, through flowers, a card, or some act of kindness for the other. These are all good things, and can lead up to forgiveness, but until a person breaks down, gets on his knees, and opens his mouth and speaks out his sorrow and need of forgiveness, he cannot, even from a merely human point of view, receive the full joy of being forgiven and being able to go on to have an even stronger relationship with his loved one.
That is what this Easter season is all about: accepting the full measure of the forgiveness that Christ offers us through His death and Resurrection. Everything we do as Christians is for others, and the manner in which we do things as Christians says something about how we will respond to others in our lives. The Holy Spirit, especially through the Sacrament of Confession, makes it possible to experience a unity with God and neighbor that cannot be achieved through our human efforts alone.