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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

Homily, 4th Sunday of Lent

I can see clearly now that the shame has gone...

2024-03-10, Fr. Paul MacNeil



I went to the dentist the other day, and I was amazed at how much going to the dentist is like going to confession. "Bless me, Dr., for I have sinned; it's been six months since my last appointment." Seriously. I went last week, and the problem was I ran out of dental floss about a month ago, and I didn't buy any replacement until last week. And then I got this email from the dentist's office a few weeks ago, "Hey, you've got an appointment." That's kind of like 'Ash Wednesday.' Ooh. I'd better stop eating chocolate for a while. And then I show up, and the dentist says, Open wide! That's like confession, too. There's no point in going to confession if you're not going to open up to it! But the whole thing is about healing. The dentist cleans your teeth; the idea is to prevent significant problems from occurring down the road. "And for your penance, brush in around those back teeth, get some good mouthwash for the gums." And then, of course, you go to the counter for the "reckoning," "Oh, father, no problem, it's already paid for, it's covered. Insurance." Just like Jesus on the Cross, Eh? He's paid the price for our healing. And what a beautiful thing this is. Just like reconciliation.



I love going to confession; I also love hearing confessions.  It's such a vulnerable and grace-filled moment. But the best confessions are the confessions of children.  They can be so interesting as they wrestle with the idea of sin in their lives. They are so innocent (usually, so I'm told.) One little 8-year-old fellow: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned; my last confession was last year. Since that time, I committed adultery." "Oh really?" I said, "And how's that working out for you?" I can't imagine what he might have been thinking; I'm not even sure I wanted to go there!! Or this one: "Bless me Father for I have sinned, this my last confession." "Oh really?" "Ok.... I hope not, but let's move on... " All I can do is smile.



But I remember one little girl telling me about her little sins, and I noticed her getting sadder and sadder. Her heart was getting heavier, so I explored this a little bit. I asked her, "What are you feeling when you think about the things you have done wrong?" "I feel bad," she said. "Guilt, embarrassed, ashamed." And then I asked her, "Well, ok, but when you do something you know is good, how do you feel?" And then her face lit up: "I feel wonderful." So, I explored this a little further as well. I said, "You know, when you do something wrong, I know it feels bad, but you need to know that that's not really who you are. Who you are is that person you are when you feel wonderful, especially when you do something good." Then I found myself singing a little song: "I can see clearly now the shame has gone," with apologies to Johnny Nash! She had this twinkle in her eye as she looked at me suspiciously (like, "Did you actually sing that?") But it's true. By the way, what a beautifully cheerful song - "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. It's going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day. Oh, yes, I can make it now that the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is that rainbow I've been praying for. It's gonna be a bright (bright) Bright (bright) sunshiny day. Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies. It's gonna be a bright (bright) Bright (bright) sunshiny day."



"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)


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