High School Penance Service
As we consider this passage from Saint John’s Gospel, we might ask ourselves why some Greeks went up to the Jewish feast. They would not be able to participate fully in the feast, so why would they go?
I suspect those who worshipped the One God intrigued them, and they wanted to learn more about the God of Israel in the hopes of joining in their worship.
This naturally leads to the question of why we have come here today. It seems to me that there are two reasons why we have come. Some have come simply because they have to, or else face a possible suspension. Others have come because they realize that something in their lives is out of place, to one degree or another.
To those who have come simply because it is part of the school day, there is very little I can say, but those who have come with the recognition of their faults have come like those Greeks who said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21).
They have come because something is missing in their lives, be it peace, joy or contentment and satisfaction. Their hearts are ill at ease and because they have come seeking that which was lost they will find it. They shall find it in Jesus Christ, in him who is that grain of wheat who fell to the ground and died, in him who is waiting for them in the Sacrament of Penance (cf. John 12:24).
They recognize in the depths of their souls the truth of the words of Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
As we meet him in this Sacrament we must make ourselves like a grain of wheat, willing to fall to the ground and die. We must be willing to die to our pride, which is the root of all our sins. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, sincerely confessing our sins in integrity of heart, that we might produce much fruit, the fruit of a life lived in faith, hope and love.
When the Greeks are brought to Jesus, he says to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). We know that his glorification took place precisely on the Cross, where he humbled himself and accepted death for our sins.
In the Sacrament of Penance the Lord wishes to share with us the fruits of his death and resurrection: the forgiveness of sins. It is here that he wishes to bestow his mercy upon us, to heal our soul and give rest to our heart. It is here that he will be glorified.
As he beckons us to his mercy, he says to us: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). But, we ask, how can someone who loves himself deny himself, for this is what the Lord means? Saint Augustine answers the question this way:
There is not anyone, after all, who does not love himself. But we have to look for the right sort of love and avoid the wrong sort. You see, anyone who loves himself by leaving God out of his life (and leaves God out of his life by loving himself), does not even remain in himself. He actually leaves his self. He goes away into exile from his own heart by taking no notice of what is inside and instead only loving what is outside….If we wish to follow Christ so as to attain the deepest longings of our heart, then we must follow him and sow our soul in this world, so as to harvest it in the next. We must die each day to sin, in whatever form we are tempted, that we might be found with Christ whom we seek, so as to be honored by the Father.
For instance, let me ask you this: Are you money? …And yet, by loving money, you end up abandoning yourself. First you abandon and then later end up destroying yourself. Love of money, you see, has caused you to destroy yourself. You tell lies on account of money. ….While looking for money, you have destroyed your soul.
Let us then hasten to confession, to confess our sins to the Lord, doing so honestly, sincerely and in integrity of heart. If we confess well, if we are truly sorry for our sins and intend not to commit them again, the grace of this Sacrament will transform us ever more closely into the image of Christ, whose servants we are. The more we resemble Christ, the great our joy and peace, the greater our contentment, will be.
Let each of us say, “I wish to see Jesus,” and go humbly where he is found. Amen.