Once upon a time there was a priest who got fed up with the number of parishioners who confessed that they committed adultery. Every week, in the confessional, it was the same thing – adultery.
One Sunday he said in his sermon that he was angry about this continuous sin of adultery amongst his congregation. He promised that if he heard this sin one more time he’d give up the priesthood and leave town for ever.
His congregation loved him and did not want to lose him. They agreed a secret code amongst themselves. From now on, instead of saying they committed adultery, they would say they have “fallen”.
All went well for years until eventualy the bishop moved the priest to another Parish and replaced him with a new one.
The new priest did not know the code. He was most disturbed that so many parishioners kept falling so he complained to the Mayor that the sidewalks in town are un-even and that he should do something about it to stop people from falling.
The Mayor, knowing the code, laughed out loudly.
The priest said: “I don’t know what you’re laughing about. Your wife fell three times this week.”
Do you remember when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery?
According to Jewish law she had to be stoned to death for that sin. We’re told in the Gospel of John that Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger. We’re not told what He wrote. I guess He wrote ‘Dear God … will they never learn?’
But that’s not important; what is important is that after He said let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone, and when they all left one by one, Jesus turned to the woman and asked ‘Is there no one left to condemn you?’
She said ‘No one …’
And Jesus replied ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.’
Now Jesus did not mean do not sin any sin whatsoever ever again for the rest of your life!
He knew that that would be impossible. The woman was human, and it is natural that she would sin again. Jesus knows our human nature and He knows that we are liable to sin again and again …
What Jesus said to the woman is, do not commit that particular sin again … it is serious enough to get you into a lot of trouble with the Pharisees as well as with God Himself.
And that’s what Jesus is saying to us today.
He knows we are weak … He knows that we will sin … which is why we have the Holy Sacrament of Confession.
By saying ‘do not sin again’ Jesus is warning us to beware of those particular sins which are serious enough to lead us into damnation, and into an eternity of exclusion from our Father in Heaven.
As we prepare for our weekly confession we need to consider carefully the seriousness of our sins. Which ones are venial sins; and which ones are grave enough to exclude us from God’s ever lasting love.
In our propensity to sin, God is loving and caring enough to forgive us again and again.
But with our confession there should also be remorse and guilt for what we have done. Confession should not be just a laborious recitation of the same old sins; and a futile exercise which serves no one and certainly does not fool God Himself.
Without true remorse, and a genuine resolve not to repeat our sins; then confession means nothing. And it would be better not to go to confession at all. At least that is honest in the eyes of God.