Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13)
This passage from the Prophet Jeremiah has always captured my imagination simply because of the powerful image that it evokes. While the metaphor speaks of sin poetically and beautifully, it does not mitigate the horror of sin by the beauty of language. Because water is essential to life, these words speak of sin as a type of spiritual suicide. No one would cut themselves off from water in a desert, a reality that the people of Israel would understand immediately. Turning away from God through sin and cutting oneself off from the living water of God's life is nothing less than spiritual death.
The Rite of Penance asks the confessor to choose a verse or two from Scripture to read at the beginning of the celebration of the sacrament. I am not sure how many confessors include this in the rite; when I do so, many penitents tell me that they have never experienced this part of the rite. I find that including a verse or two of Scripture can often prompt the penitent to look at the presence of sin in their lives a little more closely. I have a few verses typed on to index cards that I carry with me to the confessional. These verses have always been included.
Confession tends to focus one's attention on specific acts. Such verse from Scripture offer both penitent and confessor a chance to see beyond the act and to grasp the effect on the lives of all involved. The Scriptures remind us that sin is about how we break relationships, both our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Repentance and contrition are about rebuilding those relationships. The Prophet Jeremiah calls each of us to consider that reality in our lives today and reminds us of our relationship with Jesus who offers us "living water" just as he did to the Samaritan woman at the well.