21 September, Tuesday — Is there a Doctor in the House?

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

St. Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

  • Patron Saint Index

Eph 4:1-7,11-13
Mt 9:9-13

“It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.”

There is a word that immediately strikes fear in the hearts of almost all Catholics — ‘Confession’.

No matter how many times I have said the words, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” or received the words, “I absolve you of your sins.”, confession to many of us, is one of the most beautiful sacraments and yet one of the scariest too.

There is, literally, a weight off my shoulders whenever I walk out of a confessional. The day seems brighter, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and joy and to be honest, I really feel closer to the Lord. My personal prayer time with the Lord is also enhanced — as if my previously choked connections to God have become unclogged and the channel is now clear.

With all these great experiences, I often wonder why it is so difficult for some of us, myself included, to go for this sacrament more frequently? Is it because we must bare our souls and tell another person our deepest, darkest sins and failures? Is it because we are ashamed of sinning? I know that some of us, myself included, go to another parish (pre-COVID) for confession. It is perhaps easier to confess to a priest who is a stranger, than to one who is familiar to us, and feel a certain sense of embarrassment or perceived judgement should we face that priest again.

Let’s be honest — going for confession is nerve-wracking. Some of us may have had poor or traumatic experiences in the confessional, there have been stories that some people have been scolded by priests during their confessions. This certainly adds to the apprehension of stepping into a confessional. But we must understand something. Although priests have been summoned to a higher calling, they are human too. Sometimes we may forget that as humans, all of us can have bad days.

But as we go to medical doctors when we are ill, shouldn’t we also go to our spiritual doctors – our priests — when we need curing of our spiritual diseases?

Pope Francis, in one of his homilies, likened the church to a field hospital.

“I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up. The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.” said Pope Francis.

Going for confession is not easy. But the good news is that we will be meeting with Christ himself. Many of us pray, “God talk to me, please answer me…” But don’t we know or realise that we will have a personal encounter with Christ himself in the confessional.

At an RCIA session some years back, an elderly catechumen was recalling how her husband asked her how she felt confessing her sins to a younger priest that was just ordained? She answered, “Because it is not the priest that hears my confession, but Christ himself.” That really blew me away.

I believe that having made a good examination of conscience, and if we approach the priest in the confessional with humility, we are going to have a really close and personal encounter with our Lord, who dies for all our sins so that we may be re-united with the Father.

Taking the example of St Matthew, who through his own personal encounter with Christ, literally dropped everything and left his old life to follow Jesus when He said to “Follow Him”.  

We all want and desire that personal encounter with Jesus, where we can tell Him what ails us, and seek His forgiveness and mercy. We want to rest in His embrace and grace. We want to tell him, “Thank you Lord, I am sorry for not making the mark and I want to be better with your grace and your strength.”

I know I do. And I hold this in my heart as I examine my conscience, name my sins and receive the sacrament of reconciliation this weekend. And hope that I it will not be as scary as I imagine it to be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Calvin Wee)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are holy and merciful, and we want always to live in your love. Grant us the courage to always seek your mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to trust that You will always welcome us back into communion and the strength to serve you and love You always. We make this prayer in the most Holy name of Jesus.

Thanksgiving: Thank you heavenly Father, for your field doctors — our priests. Grace them with your love and strength that they may continue to do Your work in the vineyard and minister to us, your unworthy children. We ask this in Jesus’ most precious name. Amen.

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