Excerpt of the homily given at the Service of Reconciliation in the Basilica of St Pius X in Lourdes, Monday 24th July 2017
There is one thought I would like you to hear and remember this evening. It is this. Reconciliation is the sister of Baptism. They go together. They are better together. They need each other and together they grow and prosper. Yes, reconciliation and Baptism are sisters.
Our life is changed by our Baptism. In those saving waters, we are opened to the reality of God in our lives, to the presence of God’s grace working now with our human nature. Let me give you one example. Birds are made to fly; fish are made to swim; and we human beings are made to pray. We are made to be open to something beyond us, something for which we long. We reach out. We pray. This desire for prayer is made clear, and shaped for action, by our Baptism. Through Baptism we know what it means to pray. Our instinct is clarified and instructed. Through Baptism and the gift of faith we know the way, the road we are to take. We know something more of the real meaning and purpose of our human nature.
We are constantly reminded of our Baptism. The holy water that we use on various occasions, when coming into church; the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass; the blessings we use, at meal times, or even the casual God bless you.
Reconciliation is the sister of Baptism and we need both. As we know, we are constantly forgetting our Baptism and all that it means. Then we find ourselves spoiling God’s good work; defacing what is lovely by speaking or acting spitefully, corrupting the goodness in others when we persuade them into joining us in something wrong. We need reconciliation whenever we become aware of these things in our lives. We need this fresh washing, this fresh start, back to the beauty of our Baptism.
Here’s how it works. Think of the first reading. Moses is out in the desert. Why? Because he has murdered another man and is in hiding. He is fearful and miserable. Just wandering. Then he is drawn by God to the burning bush. When his misery meets God’s mercy he is, as it were, brought back to life and discovers what it is that God wants of him. This evening we can come to God, in this act of confession, with our tale of unhappiness and confusion, just a little miserable, or maybe greatly so. When our misery meets God’s mercy then we are set on our feet again and go from here refreshed, washed clean, ready for action, for all that God has in store for me.
Here’s another picture of how it works. Think of the Gospel reading we have just heard. Zaccheus is up in the sycamore tree: unpopular, unhappy, yet full of curiosity to see this man, Jesus. He too is touched by mercy and finds a new, real and joyful freedom. Yes, he finds freedom and in that freedom great generosity. So often we think having freedom means being able to choose to avoid God. But freedom is found not is avoiding God but in avoiding evil, because wrong-doing gets its teeth into us and we then find it so hard to get free. Every sin becomes a habit. We get used to it. And habits are hard to break. This is the freedom we can begin to receive this evening. Freedom comes not in avoiding God’s embrace but through being held in God’s embrace, a bit like William and Harry remembering the great hugs they were given by their mother, Diana. In that kind of love we are set free. God’s love is greater still. Try it and see! The stories of Moses and Zaccheus, and of countless thousands of others are there to encourage you.
Come to confession this evening. Don't be anxious. Just tell your story, briefly. Be an open book and let God in. God will be the judge. God will be the big hug. God will set you free. He did so at Baptism. But since then we have spoilt things. Now is the time for the sister of Baptism, this Sacrament of Reconciliation.