The Rector writes…
Pope Francis often speaks about the Devil: hardly an opportunity passes when he does not remind his hearers that there is something malevolent at work in our world. Whether we choose to personify this malevolence or to speak of “the forces of evil”, the reality is the same. The divided, fractured state of the universe cannot be wholly attributed to the accumulation of human wrong choices. As the Catechism says: “without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we are tempted to explain it (evil) as a merely developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure”. It is significant that the Gospel accounts of the Temptation of Jesus are clear as to the objectivity of evil: “he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12), “and the tempter came to him, and said to him …” (Matthew 4:2). Saint Augustine could write: “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution” and, while its origins remain wreathed in mystery, we are all too aware of its consequences.
If Jesus felt weighed down by the negativity of evil, as he most certainly did in the forty days and nights in the wilderness, and most especially in the terrible night of Gethsemane, then we, in our turn, cannot expect to escape those same assaults. There are times when despondency, even despair, fills us when we look around at the condition of a world where imbalance, aggression and violence appear endemic, but the effects of sin are not just external. We find within ourselves echoes of the universal unease, and we are able to make Saint Paul’s sentiments our own: “I cannot understand my own behaviour. I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate” (Romans 7:15). While we must never underestimate the forces of evil at work around us and within us, we need also to take responsibility for the choices that we make from our own free will. This freedom is essential to our human being and is guaranteed by the inner voice of conscience: no one has to sin, but there are times when we do prefer our own paths to those of God, and when self-regard is put in place of the common good.
Saint John Paul 11 sees the acceptance of personal failure as the prelude to something much more positive. “Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgement of conscience, and this, being the proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in our inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love. In this convincing concerning sin we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience, and the gift of the certainty of redemption”. For Catholics the acknowledgement of sin provides the impetus to seek reconciliation with God and neighbour and to find healing for a disquieted conscience. This reconciliation is made explicit in the Sacrament of Penance where we articulate the wounds in our heart and soul and receive the consequent assurance of the Divine favour. “Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way” (Catechism).
We are fortunate at Spanish Place that, with the valued ministry of the priests of Opus Dei, confessions are heard each weekday from Midday-1pm and then on Saturdays from 10.30 am- Midday, and again from 4.45 pm – 6pm. In order to facilitate any who find these existing slots difficult, and bearing in mind the requirement of every Catholic to confess grave sin before receiving Holy Communion at Easter, a priest will be available on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (2nd April) from 9.30 am -12.30 pm, and on Palm Sunday (9th April) from 11 am – 1 pm. In addition to the publicised times, there is usually a priest available in the rectory and no-one should ever feel diffident in coming to ask for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The forces of evil are potent: we all sin (“if we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth”: I John 1:8) but we also have the antidote readily available.