Summary: Like Abraham, Jacob and David, and like all of our individual ancestors, we fall short of the mark too often–committing venial sins of omission and commission, and perhaps even total turn-aways from God’s plan.

Tuesday of the 3rd Week in Advent 2019

Our Confession of Sin

I have to admit that this is one of my favorite weekday Masses in the whole Lectionary, because we hear the genealogy of Our Lord Jesus. These old Hebrew names don’t necessarily roll off the tongue, but the list is important, because they anchor the birth of Jesus Christ, Jesus Messiah, in history, specifically in the history of the Hebrew people. Unlike the myths and legends of other religions, the story of Jesus Christ is not fiction. It is fact. Now the biblical scholars find specific details in this list that make us take the business of fourteen generations between the four critical persons and events without a demand for literal precision. But the plain facts are these:

God called Abraham in the midst of a culture that had been so bad it was destroyed in a divine flood, a culture that gave rise to whole cities filled with sexual perversion, so much that with the exception of Lot’s family, they were destroyed by fire. But Abraham said “yes” to God’s call, and followed his Lord all his life. Early in that family’s history, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, prophesied that his warrior son Judah would be the ancestor of a ruler who would be obeyed by many nations. As the people of Israel grew in numbers, we also know they frequently strayed from the path God set for them. Ultimately the tribe of Judah gave us David, who is called a man “after God’s own heart.” His time was a kind of golden age for Israel, even though it was marred by David’s own sins of adultery, betrayal and murder. His kingly descendants were almost all big disappointments, to the extent that God caused Babylon to overthrow the Davidic kingdom and drag many Israelites into exile. After the restoration under the Persians, more generations were born, but they were generally disappointing as well, until the Romans put the whole of Israel under occupation and oppression.

But then came Joseph and his betrothed, Mary. In the line and spirit of Abraham, Ruth, David, Hezekiah and the other just of the Old Testament, she also said “yes” to God’s plan, and the Holy Spirit made her the mother of the Messiah, Jesus our Lord. Just think of the times you have discerned God’s will for yourself or your family, and have–despite misgivings–responded with a “yes, Lord.” God did great things with human affirmation and discipleship in former ages. He is doing the same thing today.

But, like Abraham, Jacob and David, and like all of our individual ancestors, we fall short of the mark too often–committing venial sins of omission and commission, and perhaps even total turn-aways from God’s plan. For serious sin, ones in which we know God’s law and intentionally break it, God’s mercy gives us the sacrament of reconciliation or confession. Yes, grave sins require sacramental confession, sincere repentance, and absolution.

But the little sins still hurt us and offend the holiness of God. They injure the Church, even if nobody knows about them. So every Mass–which is a representation of the sacrifice of Calvary that takes away sin–begins with a confession of sin. Even many Protestant denominations have retained a confession of sin early in their worship services. We admit our actions and inactions, our offenses known to others or not, and blame not the culture, not our parents, not anyone else. We blame our own weak minds and wills.

The restored rite of confession is just wonderful. We own up to our sin, and we now strike our breasts three times. We should emphasize the word “my” as we do. It’s MY fault when I sin. And then we ask the Virgin Mary–sinless as she was–and all the angels and saints to pray to the Lord our God for our forgiveness.

And we are forgiven. If we are truly penitent, our participation at Mass, and especially our reception of the healing food, the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, acts to wipe away all our venial sins. We can leave Mass knowing that we are as clean of sin as when we rose from the baptismal font. We must hold this weekly or even daily forgiveness in high regard, and remember to give to those who have offended us the same blessing of forgiveness that Our Lord gives to us.

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