Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Penitential Prayer Service and Way of the Cross
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 11, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the liturgy of Lent the Church prays to God in these words: “Father, this great season of grace is your gift to your family to renew us in spirit. You give us strength to purify our hearts, to control our desires, and so serve you in freedom.”
Lent is indeed, dear friends, a time for us to acknowledge our sins, a time for personal repentance, a time humbly to ask for God’s pardon and mercy for ourselves and for the whole world.
We recall the words of Saint John, which we have just heard proclaimed to us from his First Letter: “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, ‘We have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John: 8-10).
And so we listen to the invitation of Jesus to confess our sins humbly in the Sacrament of Confession, which the Church makes available to us also this evening in this Cathedral. Christ assures us that if we imitate the example in this evening’s Gospel of the tax collector who says, “O God be merciful to me a sinner,” we will receive pardon and forgiveness.
In expressing repentance for all our sins and the sins of others, we remember once again the grave offense to God and the great harm to innocent victims of the evil of sexual abuse of minors, especially by members of the clergy. As I express, in the name of the Archdiocese, renewed sorrow for this evil inflicted on children and young people, I ask God to forgive those who have committed this sin. I ask God to sustain us in our human weakness as we struggle with determination to confront this evil definitively. And I ask God to make us ever more effective both in promoting the protection of children and in addressing allegations of sexual abuse.
We know that the expiation of all the sins of the world is accomplished only by Jesus through His suffering, death and resurrection. For this reason, we gather this evening in reparation, sorrow and hope, to accompany Jesus on the way of the Cross as He falls beneath the weight of all sins. We also accompany His brothers and sisters, victims of abuse, who like Jesus, bear the weight of the sins committed against them. We acknowledge that Jesus alone is the Savior of the world who has the power to forgive, to restore and to heal us all. Amen.