Catholic Guilt? Nah, not me.

2021 15th Sunday of the Year (B) 

I love the message of this gospel. To many people it’s unreal. Jesus tells his disciples to go out without anything, except a staff: no food, no bag, no money. People would say it’s crazy. Certainly one of my friends would say that: he won’t go out to post a letter without checking he has his wallet!  What does he need his wallet for, he was only posting a letter?  There’s no way that he could go out without money, his credit card, driving license, insurance policy. But then, to be fair, he wasn’t a disciple of Christ. Though I have met people who do crazy things like the disciples did: who put their trust in God totally. I really admire them. 

But what struck me most about the gospel wasn’t so much the apostles going out without anything except a stick in their hand, but what they went out for. The gospel tells us: “they set off to preach repentance.” And I thought about this for a while, and then said “yes”; I understand why. I understood that it was what the people of Jesus’ day needed to hear most: they needed to know that their sins were forgiven.  And it is still the same today, 2000 years later: people still need to hear the same message.  Human nature in Jesus’ day isn’t so different from our own. People made mistakes in Jesus’ day and they still do today. And as a result of their mistakes they blame themselves; and often walk through life weighed down with guilt. 

To be forgiven is to be set free. Even as a child, 7, 8, 9 years old I remember feeling so free after confession. I was only young yet my sins weighed me down. Was that what people call ‘catholic guilt’. Maybe, but whatever it was, after confession I felt great, free. In those days Catholics used to go to confession twice a month; now many Catholics have stopped going. The only trouble with that is the guilt that people carry around; and that’s not ‘catholic guilt’; it’s just guilt. We can try to sweep sins under the carpet, pretend that they are not there; but our consciences keep troubling us. And we can become terribly unhappy. And all that could change in a moment. But the longer not going to confession goes on the harder it is, till in the end some just give up.  No wonder the first things the apostles preached was repentance: acknowledge your sins and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness will not be lacking. And then we can be free as birds again; a weight lifted off our shoulders. “Why didn’t I do this years ago?” one might question. Whatever the answer: it is never too late to start. 

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