Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
(Daniel 3:25.34-43; Matthew 18:21-35)
Protestants often criticize the Catholic practice of confessing to a priest. They ask, “Why do you have to tell your sins to a man? It is God who forgives sins.” Yes, certainly sins offend God, and He alone can forgive them, but Jesus has given his apostles authority to carry out this function (Matthew 18:18). There is a further reason. When a Christian sins, she or he does harm to the Church which is entrusted with the mission of announcing God’s love to the world. Gossiping, viewing pornography, or cheating on taxes hinders the deliverance of this message. The readings today present examples of a sincere confession and what proves to be a faulty one.
The first reading pictures Azariah, one of the three Jewish youths chosen to serve the king of Persia, expressing contrition for the sins of his people. As the prophets tell, God desires such a contrite heart more than sacrifices. The servant in the gospel parable sounds like he has undergone a change of heart as he pleads with his master for an extension of his debt, but actually he has not. If he were sincere, he would show the same understanding to a fellow servant who is indebted to him.
All Catholics should go to Confession during Lent whether or not they are in mortal sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation humbles us to admit that we make mistakes -- sometimes grave ones -- that divert us from the path of holiness. Also significant, Reconciliation reminds us that religion is not just a personal affair between God and me but a communal enterprise in which all of us have a role to carry out.