The United States bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week, as they do every November. This morning, USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan addressed them. His choice topic surprised many: Penance.
To be sure, the sacraments of initiation - - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist - - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.
But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance -- a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.
What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.
We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? "The Kingdom of God is within," as Jesus taught.
Read it all here. If you have time for nothing else, take a good look at section II, which has some insightful, beautiful and challenging lines.