[This was the homily I gave for the fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time on February 13th, despite the late post date]
“If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and they will save you” – Sirach 15:15
This last week, the internet was atwitter about the Confession app made for the iPhone and approved via imprimatur by the Bishop of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana (Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes).
As often happens when technology and Catholicism mix, confusion abounded. There was a lot of brouhaha over the idea of confession to one’s phone – as if that would offer any lasting satisfaction – which led to no end of misleading, though eye-catching, articles. ‘Confess to your (i)phone’ and the like made their rounds around the internet & blogosphere.
It shouldn’t shock anyone that those who don’t understand the sacrament would amused and confused by all of this. But when the dust started to settle, what was most surprising was the reaction of Catholics to the application. Essentially this application walks a penitent through a detailed examination of conscience and then provides a script based on their answers so that they can avoid being tongue-tied before the priest. And as a person goes through this application, he or she realizes a hard truth:
There are a lot of sins out there – and we’re guilty of a lot of them!
We know about murder, about adultery, about lying – but even anger against our brothers or lust in our hearts is bad? Whoa now! The list of sins out there starts to make us squirm when we realize how many we cling to, sometimes desperately so.
Last week we were exhorted by Christ to be light to the world and salt of the earth. This week’s gospel is simply a continuation of Christ’s exhortation. And we are told in no uncertain terms to keep the commandments, no matter what and with no exceptions – to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no.
And we don’t like it, and we avoid it, because we know where all of this commandment-following and yes/no integrity leads: to the same cross that Christ died on. More than the idea of confession, which is scary enough, this prospect does and should fill us with fear and trembling. We just can’t do it alone.
And this is where the sacraments are our hope and salvation. Through confession we receive forgiveness of our sins and preparation to receive Christ anew. At the altar of sacrifice, we have the opportunity to receive Christ Himself – and from Him, to be strengthened again to do what He tells us, to follow Him.
Whether you have an app or a piece of paper, an examination of conscience is something worth doing not just before confession but every day. The Liturgy of the Hours prescribes a brief examination every night – something we as Catholic are encouraged to do as well.
So how about it? What if you examined your day, your successes and failures, your sins and virtues every evening? What if you took the time to apologize to the Lord, to ask for His help every night? Not only would you be ready for your next confession (and your are going to confession regularly, right?), but you will be ready for the next day – because you’ll be counting on God to help you do better!
Try it for a week – or even better – try it for a lifetime. Confession, and the cross it prepares us for, becomes a joy when we realize Christ is on our side.