5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In all the readings today a meeting with God leads to a sense of awe before him. Isaiah says “what a wretched state I am in I am lost”, St Paul says “I am the least of the apostles, I hardly deserve the name of Apostle” and St Peter says “Leave me Lord I am a sinful man”.
There is a good example in today’s readings of what I said last week. That what is new about the New Testament is Jesus himself. In the Old Testament Isaiah encounters God in a vision, with Angels, a great voice, the temple shaking and filled with smoke, in the New Testament both Peter and Paul encounter God when they meet Jesus. Paul on the road to Damascus when Jesus asks “why are you persecuting me” and Peter when Jesus helps him with his fishing.
We must not misunderstand the sense of awe when people encounter God. Remember again what I said last week. The world tends to think that keeping the commandments, obeying God’s law is a restriction on the freedom of Catholics. The commandments tell us what we can’t do. But for those who have encountered God’s love in Jesus, for those who love Jesus keeping the commandments is what we want to do, because it is the desire of the one we love. For a Catholic – to be free is to keep the commandments – because that means we are free to love God. Likewise that this sense of awe before God “What a wretched state I am in, I am a sinful man” is not guilt not a demoralization but an expression of wonder and a desire for freedom.
The analogy would be if you loved some one so much and they loved you. Ideally in a marriage. How often when you experienced the love of your spouse would you say to yourself, “I am not worthy, what can she see in me? she is such a wonderful person, I don’t deserve her”. So too when we come face to face with the love God has for us, when we meet Jesus in prayer, in holy communion, in our daily lives – the more we understand that love the more we will say “I am not worthy”. But “I am not worthy” is an expression of the desire to remove what hinders our loving. To be better able to respond to God’s love. To be a better more loving person myself.
And that brings us to the sacrament of confession, the sacrament given to us by Our Lord to not only forgive sins but to give us the grace to be able to respond more fully to the love of God, the Sacrament in which over the months and years we can with God slowly become what God has called us to be. “See now your sin is taken away” “it was as though I was born when no one expected it” “Do not be afraid – and they left everything and followed him.”
Some people say that the decline in the number of people going to confession is because people have lost a sense of sin. Maybe. But it is also because people have lost a sense of love. Isaiah, St Paul and St Peter all teach us today that if you encounter God, and he is here in the blessed Eucharist, if you encounter God then our first response is always the realisation that I am not worthy and the desire to change. That alone should drive us frequently to confession.