As the liturgical year is coming to a close, we’re invited to look to the end.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s what today’s feast is about: the coming of the Kingdom.
If you and I dare to say, “thy Kingdom come,” we must be ready for Christ to reign in our hearts right now. Jesus cannot reign in a calculating heart, or a divided heart, or a hardened heart. He seeks the generosity and daring of a young heart, which doesn’t know to hold back. This is where Christ reigns.
But we all know — don’t we? — that our past can prevent this. Sin. Destructive relationships. Addictive behaviours. All of these things conspire against a young heart and a simple love.
This is why our Lord gives us the sacrament of reconciliation. In confessions not only are our sins forgiven, but our heart is healed. Our Lord knew — centuries before “the invention of psychotherapy” — that when we name the evil in our lives, it loses its power. The enemy knows that too, which is why this sacrament is under attack. I’ve experienced this as a priest.
For example, when someone approaches me for confession out of the blue, I experience the most irrational annoyance and even anger. Every time. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a good mood or not. If I have time to spare or not. Storm clouds gather. But the moment I smile, and offer a word of encouragement, the clouds lift, as suddenly as they arrived.
Something similar happens during scheduled times of confession. Usually, I’m content to sit and wait for the allotted time, praying and reading if there are no penitents. But sometimes, I’m sorely tempted to leave early. Some task comes to mind, and it’s so urgent! I need to start it now! And here I am, sitting alone in the confessional and wasting time! I’ve learned to clench my fists and stay for the allotted time, which requires a great effort of will. Every time that happens, someone arrives at the last minute. They’ve usually been many months or years away from the sacrament, and they receive great healing. But not without a battle first!
I think many of us have experienced something similar as penitents. The Holy Spirit moves us to contrition, and we resolve to go to confession, but then an obstacle emerges. Something prevents us from going, and unless we’re resolute, we postpone confession, and often we neglect to go.
All of these experiences, I think, are forms of spiritual attack. The enemy does not want us to receive the sacrament. More to the point, the enemy does not want Jesus to dwell in our hearts, much less have him reign in our mind, in our actions, and in our will.
Reconciliation is a great way to prepare our hearts, so that Jesus is pleased to dwell there. But of course, it’s not the only way.
The promise of Christ’s reign begins in our own lives. In the small acts of love and sacrifice we do each day. The unexpected favour we show our neighbour; the visit we make to the tabernacle; the time we invest in calling a distant friend or relative; our generosity towards the poor.
These small acts are an anticipation of the Kingdom, in all its power and majesty. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”