Each of us must die and face our particular judgment. This is not news to anyone here. Depending on this judgment we will go to eternal happiness in heaven or eternal damnation in hell. If you need to be reminded of this watch the video testimony of Fr Steve Scheier.
He was ordained a priest in 1973 but did not live his priesthood in any serious way. He was more interested in popularity from his parishioners and brother priests than in fulfilling the mission given him at his ordination. Shortly after a near fatal car crash Fr Steve had a meeting with Jesus who showed him every detail of his past life and accused him of all his various sins.
Although Fr Steve had regularly confessed his sins he lacked a firm desire to amend his life and began to realise his confessions had done him no good and were perhaps not even valid. He had convinced himself there would be time to convert later but now suddenly and unexpectedly found himself before the judgment seat of God.
What is more, Fr Steve had always thought that he would be able to ‘chat’ with Jesus about his life and explain why he had done this or that or why he had failed to do this or that but he discovered to his dismay the reality was very different. He quickly realised that Jesus already knew the full truth of his life and all its details and all his motives and difficulties, and so on and, as he revealed each sin, Fr Steve could only say ‘Yes, Lord, that’s true.’
Finally Jesus said ‘The sentence is hell.’
Once again Fr Steve could only reply, ‘Yes, Lord, I know.’ It was the only thing he could say since he had been judged by Truth itself.
Then a woman’s voice said, ‘Son, please spare his life and his immortal soul.’
Jesus said, ‘Mother, he’s been a priest for twelve years for himself and not for me, let him reap the punishment he deserves.’
Mary replied, ‘But Son, if we give him special graces and strengths then he may bear fruit, if not, your will be done.’ After a short pause Jesus said, ‘Mother, he’s yours.’
Fr Steve experienced firsthand what we call the particular judgment which awaits each of us the moment we die. He discovered that we will all stand quite alone before the Lord at that judgment. There will be no negotiating, no excuses, no changing the channel. For some reason Fr Steve received, through the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, a special mercy, the grace of another chance. He feels it is now his mission to tell those who will listen not to delay to prepare for that moment of truth. He tells us that hell exists and that people go there. He tells us also that Divine Mercy exists – which brings us to today’s feast.
Like the second chance Fr Steve received we, too, are offered in our lives a second chance: God’s mercy.
The throne of God’s Divine Mercy is the confessional; the sacrament of Confession. This is where a Catholic has his or her grave, or if you prefer, mortal sins forgiven.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, like the unavailability of the sacrament or our physical inability to get there, mortal sin is only forgiven through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Sure we can make a good act of contrition, sure we can tell God we are sorry, sure we can promise to amend our lives – and God will forgive us there and then – but only by virtue of our intention to go face to face confession with a priest as soon as we can. It is not enough just to make an act of contrition without this intention. Moreover, we should not receive Holy Communion until we have made this face to face confession.
The sacrament of Confession is God’s invitation to a mini-Judgment – a judgment in which we receive mercy instead of justice.
- In Confession we take Jesus through our sins and he gives us mercy.
- In the judgment after our death Jesus takes us through our sins and he gives us justice.
Is it any wonder that Confession is so attacked? The ordinary Catholic in the pews is so terribly confused about this sacrament and some have not been for many years. There are all sorts of errors and misconceptions spread about this wonderful and essential sacrament and the biggest and most horrible one of all is that it is no longer necessary. 'Oh, you can just tell Jesus privately that you are sorry for your sins and he forgives them. No need to go to the priest. Tell Jesus direct!' This is pure Protestant teaching. This is not the faith of the Catholic Church!
If you truly believe this lie then you have stopped being a Catholic; you are saying the Church has only six sacraments instead of seven and you have placed yourself outside the Church - and that's not a good place to be.
Usually on this feast day I tell people all about St Faustina and the Chaplet of Mercy and the Novena and the 3 o'clock prayer. This year I am choosing to say only one thing:
If you have not been to confession for a long time, if you are conscious of a mortal sin, do your immortal soul a favour and go. Go quickly! Don't delay!