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'Blessed Hope' Brings Healing

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By Terry Peloquin (Dec 16, 2018)
Can you list the seven Sacraments? If you went to Catholic school or catechism class, it's likely you can. But what if I asked you to say which two of them are the Sacraments of Healing?

One is, of course, the Anointing of the Sick. What's the other one?

It's the Sacrament of Reconciliation (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1421). Why would Confession be a Sacrament of Healing? What does it have to do with joy and hope in Advent?

First, let's consider what week we're in. It's the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The rose-colored vestments traditionally worn by the celebrant recall a sense of joy amidst a season of penance. We have hope as we see the season of preparation is coming to a close and the great feast is near.

The Gospel readings from last week (Lk 3:1-6) and this week (Lk 3:10-18) tell us of the mission of John the Baptist, who preached repentance as a means to prepare the way of the Lord. We want our hearts to be a suitable dwelling place for Christ, not only in the celebration of His Birth but also when we sacramentally receive Him in Holy Communion. Our Advent reflection last week discussed how humility opens the door to God's grace — something we consider in Advent through more opportunities for Confession.

Now, look closely at these passages about Confession. Both are from the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, and the second takes place during Advent:

A soul does not benefit as it should from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. ... It puts on a mask and avoids everything that might bring it recovery (113).

I would like to prepare all nations for the coming of the Word Incarnate. O Jesus, make the fount of Your mercy gush forth more abundantly, for humankind is seriously ill and thus has more need than ever of Your compassion (793).

Did you notice the words St. Faustina uses? Recovery. Seriously ill. She's using the imagery of sickness and healing. Jesus used similar wording when He taught her about His compassion for sinners:

Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart (Diary, 1588).

Man is aching (as in a physical ailment). Our sins wound us. Although our sins do offend God, Jesus doesn't want to punish mankind. In His mercy, Jesus — the Good Physician — wants to heal us.

How much healing power is in Confession? Saint Faustina records:

There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. ... Were souls like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448).

In addition to healing, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great source of comfort and hope. The priest, ministering in persona Christi, pronounces the words of absolution over us. Jesus pours His mercy into us and makes our hearts a suitable dwelling place.

Every Advent, by sharing in the Old Testament expectancy of the Messiah, we renew our desire for His Second Coming (see Catechism, 524) and consider our degree of preparedness to greet Him. Even when we're not in the liturgical season of Advent, however, we're still to maintain this disposition. We hear it in the liturgy, after the Lord's Prayer, when the priest offers the following short prayer:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May our hearts stay prepared to be a dwelling place for Christ, so we may live in joyful hope.

Going to Confession? See this Examination of Conscience.

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