Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The question is often asked of Catholic Christians, “Why do you need to go to a priest for confession?” There are many who believe that Jesus is more than capable of handling our sins Himself which, really, He is. However we must always remember that our salvation is a small part of Christ’s effort to redeem the entire human race. This means the forgiveness of our sins is only part—albeit a crucial part—of what Jesus set out to do.
Today’s Gospel illustrates quite clearly Jesus’ desire that the forgiveness of our sins occur within a particular context: that of a body, a Church. Our baptism brings us into the Body of Christ and being a member of this Body means that not only do our good deeds benefit the Body, but our personal sins are against the Body as well. If you were to step on a nail is it only your foot that suffers, or do you suffer? The same holds for a sickness that only directly affects one particular part of your body; the suffering of any part of the body causes the whole body to suffer. When we sin, then, our choice not only impacts our relationship with Jesus but also with His Mystical Body. The priest present in the confessional is both a minister of Christ’s merciful forgiveness and an official representative of the Church, the Body of Christ, and forgives us on her behalf.
Not only, as Jesus tells us, is it important to seek reconciliation with those we have wronged or who have wronged us, but we must persevere in this work of uniting the Body of Christ and all its members in love. That effort starts with us, in our relationships with other members of the Body. The Kingdom of God is not just Jesus and I; that is hardly a Kingdom worthy of all He has done to establish it!
Do not be dismayed; some of us may have some seemingly impossible tasks before us. Yet just as our faults can cause division in the Body our prayers and love for one another have even greater power. Jesus tells us that “if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” When we pray not merely as individuals but especially as a Body, it is not merely we who pray but Christ, and does not the Father grant all His Son asks of Him? Our work in building the Kingdom can be—is—challenging, but the One who has called us to this work has not sent us out to do it alone.