Often when I speak with people about confession, they will say to me “Well Father, I haven’t been to confession for a long time, but I really don’t know what I would say. I don’t really DO anything.” Normally we think of sin as doing something bad. But we read in today’s Gospel, the rich man is punished in hell not for something he did, but for something he did not do – his failure to alleviate the poverty of his neighbor. At the beginning of Mass, we admit that we have sinned “in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” The church calls these latter sins, sins of omission – failing in our obligations before God and neighbor. If we are to examine our consciences well, we must be aware not only of the evil we have done but of the good we should have done.
We can start with the example given in our Gospel. While we may not be as extravagant or sophisticated as the rich man in our Gospel – we do live very comfortably. Do we use our abundance to alleviate the sufferings of those who have nothing? Poverty is not only lack of material possessions, but lack of companionship, lack of purpose, lack of hope. Are we aware of the needs of those around us? What are we doing to alleviate loneliness, discouragement and suffering?
What about our professional obligations? Do we do a fair day’s work for a fair wage? Or do we waste time in personal phone calls, surfing the net or extended chats with co-workers? Have we cut corners or done a mediocre job just to get finished? Do we keep our professional training up to date so we can do our job well, give glory to God and serve our neighbor?
We must also consider our obligations to our family. Saint Ignatius said “The greatest sin is ingratitude.” We need to show our affection and appreciation for those we love. Call your mom! Visit your grampa! Learn to say “Thank you” often. So much marital conflict originates when one party feels they are no longer appreciated by the other.
For parents a serious concern is the religious education of your children. So often I meet young adults who were raised in Church going families and who have stopped practicing because they say they never understood it. Sometimes this is just an excuse, but often they are sincere. There is no reason why this should happen – there are an abundance of resources available to learn your faith and share it with your family. While we are fortunate to have Catholic schools in Ontario, you must be personally involved in ensuring that your children know and understand the teachings of our Catholic Faith. The sexual education of your children is also very important. It may be awkward and embarrassing but it is also essential. Our children will be bombarded by lies about their bodies, about love, about marriage. They need a strong foundation at home to grow in self confidence and self control so as to build healthy relationships.
Most important are our obligations to God. So often we take our Lord’s generosity for granted. Our Lord has given us everything, it is only just that we thank him and worship him. As Catholics our greatest act of Worship is the Sunday Mass. To deliberately miss Sunday Mass without a good reason is still a mortal sin, yet even many Church going Catholics see nothing wrong with skipping once in a while, sometimes for superficial reasons. How do you foster your spiritual life – by making time for prayer everyday, by confessing your sins regularly, by spiritual reading, by attending prayer groups or days of recollection, by making a periodic retreat?
Our duties may seem overwhelming, but God would not ask these things of us if He were not confident we could accomplish them. He will give us the grace we need.
So many say “I don’t need to go to confession because I don’t DO anything!” That is precisely why we need to go to confession – we don’t DO so many things we could, we don’t do so many things we should.