Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I absolve you...

Recently I found a lump at the base of my jaw. The doctor looked it over and told me that I had a tumor in my parotid gland. He wanted to biopsy it to see if it were malignant or benign. I asked what the difference was.

A malignant tumor will kill you if left untreated. A benign tumor will not. The doctor recommended having both types of tumors removed. I asked if a benign tumor wouldn’t kill you why would someone have it removed. The doctor explained that if left untreated a benign tumor would continue to grow and would eventually become disfiguring. A benign tumor could also turn malignant at any time. It is best to remove it when it is small.

I had the tumor removed and it was benign. I am now left with a hardly noticeable scar and a divot at the base of the jaw where the tumor was removed. Praise be to God.

Like the tumor there are two types of sin – mortal and venial. Ask a priest what the difference is and he will tell you that a mortal sin will kill you, a venial sin will not. He will also agree with the doctor that both types of sin should be removed. A venial sin, if left untreated, will continue to grow and become disfiguring. A venial sin can lead to mortal sin. It is best to remove it when it is small.

“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” – John 20, 19-23

Jesus understood the fallen nature of man. Baptism washes away the stain of sin but man is a weak creature and will sin again. Like a tumor, sin causes the death of the soul. Someone living in sin has been separated from the full love of God by their own choosing. Jesus knew that he had to provide a way to remove this tumor and allow us to come into full communion with God in this lifetime. Full communion with God is the only path to true happiness and God wants his children to be truly happy in this life and the one to come. Jesus gave his authority to forgive sins to his disciples and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted.

Priests are doctors of the soul. They have the authority of Jesus, passed down through apostolic succession, to truly forgive a person of the sins in their life. A mortal sin is one that fully separates a person from the saving grace of God. Almost all of the mainstream Protestant denominations believe in “once saved, always saved”. This basically means that Jesus died once for all sins, past, present, and future, and that once you accept him as your Lord and Savior your place in heaven is assured. In this belief there is no punishment for sins committed after your acceptance of Christ. If there is no punishment there is no reason to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You are free to commit any sin that so pleases you and as long as you have accepted Christ you are safe.

Does this concept work in your family? Is your baby boy free from punishment for anything he does just because he loves you and accepts you as mommy or daddy? If he is you have some long nights, gray hair, and probably an ulcer or two ahead of you come the teenage years.

It doesn’t work in God’s family either. Jesus did die once for all and redeemed all of mankind for the price of sin both past and future. But one thing that God respects above all else is the free will he gave man and the angels. He will forgive us our sins and bring us into full communion with him or he will allow us to separate ourselves through sin. It is our choice. God does not condemn anyone to hell. He finds us there. We choose hell when we choose ourselves over God.

The only sin that God will not forgive is the sin we do not ask forgiveness for. Again, God respects our free will. If we choose to retain our sins he will allow us to retain them and then bear the punishment for those sins. If the sins are mortal we have fully separated ourselves from God and the punishment for those sins is death and an eternity in hell. Venial sin does not fully separate us from God but does severely restrict the saving grace God will give us. If you die with a mortal sin on your soul you go to hell. If you die with a venial sin on your soul you go to purgatory when you are purged or perfected and the sin you have is burned away like the chaff of wheat.

God wants us in full communion with him and he is ready to pour out saving grace to us. He has provided us a way to restore our soul or wipe the slate clean so to speak. We can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as confession, and be healed.

Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? Can’t I just go to God directly? The simple answer is that Jesus told us to do so. If it weren’t necessary he wouldn’t have gave that authority to man to begin with. If we could simply go to Jesus with our sins that would have been the instruction he left. Tell my children to pray to me privately and forgiveness will be theirs. But that isn’t want he said. He gave his disciples the authority to bind or loose sins and then he instructed them to tell people to confess their sins to each other.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” James 5, 16

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments of healing. We can confess our sins to a priest who stands in the place of Jesus. They act as a conduit connecting heaven and earth allowing the healing forgiveness of Jesus to flow down and restore our broken relationship with God. The priest can do this because he has been given the authority to do so by Jesus through the apostolic succession of the bishops. No other man or woman has been given this authority. This makes the priest the only doctor who can remove the cancer eating away at our souls. Tumors should be removed as soon as they exist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the greatest treasures the Catholic Church has.

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