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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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CONFITEOR or I CONFESS (Penitential Act)

The admonition found in Scripture and echoed in the mission of the Church is “repent and believe.” We must make room for saving faith by contrition, penance and amendment of life. We acknowledge at the very beginning of the liturgy that Jesus’ fundamental mission which he shares with the Church is the forgiveness of sins. We admit that we are unworthy of divine mercy and yet we implore it as a gift that the Lord has promised to grant.  Left to ourselves, we cannot save ourselves.  The elect must be washed in the blood of the unblemished Lamb.  We must be one with Jesus who as man can offer an oblation and as a divine person can make it efficacious.  This posture is vital for those who desire to render pleasing worship to God.  Jesus is the All Holy One with whom we must be joined or grafted.  We admit from the start that we have fallen short and yet in Christ we can know absolution, transformation and unity with our great High Priest. 

Priest and people say this prayer together and yet for each it is deeply personal.  “I confess to Almighty God . . . .”  We confess our dependence upon God.  We are honest about our sinfulness.  This prayer runs against the grain of an arrogant world where too many rebel and literally shout in their dissent, “No one, not even God, can tell me what to do!”  Our confession is not of particular sins as in the sacrament of penance but rather of a sinful or spiritually wounded condition. Our approach to God is viewed through the immaculate prism of Mary’s Magnificat as “the handmaid of the Lord.” We can only truly please and worship the Lord if we (like her) are free of grievous sin.  She spoke her “fiat” for the whole human race; now we must speak for ourselves. Genuine humility will allow nothing of narcissism or hubris.  Literally we are asking the Lord to dispose us to grace.  The Confiteor is a surrender of the self to God and to the truth that God already knows about each and every one of us. It is also a corporate admission of fault and dependence before the believing community. As in the parable of the king who discovers someone improperly dressed for his banquet and has him thrown out, the Confiteor is an effort to put on the wedding garment of the Lamb— to put on Christ— so as to be properly prepared for the bounty that comes from the liturgy. One commenter has compared it to taking off one’s dirty shoes so as not to spoil the clean carpet of a neighbor’s home.  We want to leave our sins at the steps outside the doors to God’s house. But we must be careful.  My corrective is that we do not want to be Sunday saints and weekday sinners. It is more pressing that we should go out different from how we come in.  Maybe a better analogy would be to see the liturgy as a carwash? Made clean by grace we are to shine as brand new; praising God with the saints at Mass and reflecting Christ on the highways of the world outside the church. 

We cry out “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault or “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”  The revised or dare I say “corrected” translation has us repeat these words three times.  Why?  It respects human nature and the fact that  notwithstanding our best intentions, we endure a constant struggle with concupiscence and sin.  We return to the confessional again and again, despite making the resolution to avoid sin and to change our lives. It acknowledges that we are a work in progress. The Mass itself is a re-presentation to which we return again and again even though the oblation is accomplished in time once and for all on Calvary. We repeatedly return so that the work that Christ has started in us will be accomplished.

As sinners we readily discern how we fall short in being Christ’s disciples in our thoughts, words and deeds.  While confession is good for the soul, many conceal secret selves where thoughts are tainted and hearts are corrupted.  We are each to some degree Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll concealing the darkness of Mister Hyde, coveting what does not belong to us, hating what we should love— all the time fearful of any exposure of the truth. We are ashamed or at least we should be.  If there should be no remorse or sorrow or contrition then we would assuredly become what Dr. Scott Peck calls “the people of the lie.” As for the sin of the lips, we live in a time of dire dysfunction in communication.  Calumny and mockery poisons discourse in the public forum, in Church dialogue and in family communion.  We seem to posit everyone as the enemy and the curse displaces the blessing.  This needs to change and there is no better place to start than at Mass.  We are called to love those who are hard to love, including those who hate us. When it comes to our deeds, we live in an age when every commandment is broken, often without concern. Indeed, some celebrate the deadly sins. Meanwhile, many who claim a high ground to Catholic discipleship either dissent quietly on matters of faith and morals or are culpable for failing to do the things we should do.  Such is the hypocrisy of those arguing for human rights and dignity while pandering to the exploitation of women, deriding unwanted immigrants as drug-dealing mongrels and rapists, promoting capital punishment as if it were a personal vendetta, and enabling the abortion of millions of children.  If we are to be like Jesus, we must not ignore the rights and needs of the poor, the forgotten and the oppressed.  Good or bad, the penitential rite demands that we face the truth about our sinfulness and brokenness. 

We invoke our brothers and sisters, as well as the Blessed Mother, because we know that none of us come to the Lord alone. This truth is so from the very beginning as most of us first come to be disciples as babies in the arms of our parents and godparents at the baptismal font, the womb of the Church. The Mass is a command performance where we come together as sinners hoping to become saints. We are called to avoid evil and to do good.  But we have all been found wanting. Especially today given Western materialism, we are the rich man who goes away sad because his possessions are many (Matthew 5:23-26). The focus is not upon particular sins but our general sinfulness and how we will always need Jesus as the Divine Mercy.  Christ must be our abiding treasure. Our Lord would have us love as he loves, beginning with God and then with ourselves and finally with others in the human family.

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