On one Saturday afternoon a man went to church to go to confession.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” he said, “It’s been a year since my last confession. Father, I work at the steel mill and last week while no one was watching I stole a hammer. Besides, is it really a big deal? Everybody does it and I’m sure the company wouldn’t miss a measly little hammer.”
The priest paused for a moment and said, “You know, I just read a story in the paper just the other day that thefts at the mill averaged out to a thousand dollars a week. Your hammer along with what others are taking is costing the company over $50,000 a year.
“And then, to make up for that loss, the factory raises the price of steel. Consequently, everyone who buys a car, purchases an appliance, or remodels his house has to pay the price for your hammer. You hurt the company, you hurt everybody in this city.”
That story serves as a reminder of the far-reaching consequences of our actions. Just as this man's theft had a larger impact on society than he initially realized, our actions and choices, no matter how small they may seem, have the power to shape the world around us.
And this is where today's first reading and gospel come in.
In the first reading, we hear the words, "There are set before you fire and water: to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand."
We are given the choice to do what is wrong, or to do what is right. Just like the man who stole the hammer, we have the power to make choices that impact those around us.
We can either choose to live lives that are selfish and harmful to others, and get burned every time, or, we can choose to live lives of integrity, where we do what is right even when nobody is watching.
In the gospel, Jesus uses the example of murder and adultery to emphasize the importance of avoiding sin and maintaining a pure heart:
“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
He’s saying that even the slightest temptation to sin can cause harm to both ourselves and those around us.
When we sin we not only break our relationship with God. It also affects our relationship with others and the community as a whole even when we think no one is watching.
This is where we circle back to the man in the story and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through confession and penance, we are able to receive forgiveness and restore that relationship, both with God and with others.
I know - many of us hate talking and thinking about our sins and going to Reconciliation and confession. Most of us like the stories about Jesus who heals people and calls us to be kind and welcoming to all people. I like that Jesus, too!
But, along with serving the poor and the sick and being kind to one another Jesus also calls us to own up for the things we’ve done wrong and be reconciled with Him. Whether we like it or not, that’s the Jesus we get this weekend and we need to listen to that Jesus, too!
We need to be reminded that Confession is a wonderful opportunity for us to be mindful of the impact our actions have on the world around us and ask for forgiveness.
The grace of God’s love and forgiveness we receive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the cool, healing, ointment for the times we got burned, and burned others, because of our poor choices.
Confession is a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on the impact our actions have on the world and to seek forgiveness.
Let us choose to live lives of integrity and actively seek to do good, even when nobody is watching.