In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, frequently referred to only as Confession, is probably one of my favorite Sacraments; however, I often hear people mention that it is an intimidating experience. I can, of course, understand why one may feel a sense of anxiety when standing in line or waiting in a pew before entering the confessional. However, I am firmly convinced that the hesitancy to participate in this extremely worthwhile Sacrament stems from a misconception of the Sacrament itself. I hope to share in this entry a few things that with the Grace of God helped me make a drastic shift in my perspective of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and has allowed me to embrace what was once an intimidating and uncomfortable obligation into the foundation of my life.
What an excellent opportunity you have given to us, my God, to meet you personally and intimately in this Sacrament. It pains me to see so many of your children lose such a beautiful encounter with You, our Lord, out of wordly fear. To protect our mortal egos, we endanger our immortal souls. How willing we are to gamble Your gift of Salvation for a few moments of worldly comfort. If only we would shed our fear, O God, how much more profound our understanding of and devotion to your perfect Divine Mercy would be within our hearts. Let us not turn away from You when You come to meet us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Instead, I pray we, who are in such profound need for forgiveness and mercy, come to visit you frequently in this holy Sacrament. Give us each, Lord I pray, not only the wisdom to recognize our flaws but the desire for your forgiveness and the courage and devotion to run into Your arms. You who are so merciful and forgiving have blessed us with your Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us not waste such an opportunity because of human fear and weakness. When we inevitably fail, my God, let us know our wretchedness and trust in Your promise of Salvation fully and meet you eagerly, lovingly, and personally in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Amen.
Think about a time when you wronged a very close friend, or even perhaps a family member you loved dearly. When you realized your mistake, you may have felt a sting in your heart and a desire to let the person know you were genuinely sorry for what you said or did. When you apologized to them, and if they forgave you, think about how wonderful you felt afterward. Perhaps you and this individual developed an even stronger bond because of your apology. You demonstrated your sincere care for their feelings, and therefore they can trust you, even more, knowing that you are so conscientious of their wellbeing. When we go to Confession, we get to experience this human exchange on a Divine level. We get to show our Lord that we truly love Him and desire to make Him happy with the way we live our lives, and we also get to experience His profound Mercy when we receive absolution from Him through the priest.
Admitting our mistakes is always going to make us feel a little uncomfortable, and to some degree, it ought to as this helps us avoid continuing to make the same mistakes. One who says they are sorry without feeling true sorrow is not likely to avoid having to apologize again; one who is genuinely sorry is expected to modify their behavior in order to avoid hurting the individual to whom they apologized in the first place. When we sin it is an offense against God; when we go to Confession with sincere contrition and sorrow for our sins, we apologize to God, receive His forgiveness, and experience His Divine and unconditional Love for us. What a blessing You bestowed on Your Church, my Lord, when you granted Your servants the ability to forgive sins on earth through You. We lowly and unworthy beings may be carried up to experience Your Divine Mercy. What God has given His people an opportunity such as that given to us in Holy Confession. How great You are in Your love for us, my God. You saw that we who are so undeserving of Your forgiveness and wretched, who are so prone to trade the promise of Salvation for a handful of wordly riches, who are so apt to fall into carnal temptations needed continual forgiveness. Alone, we are incapable of ever entering into Your Kingdom, but through the Sacraments which You so Mercifully left for us, You have built us a sure road to Salvation. May we all, my God, I pray, realize the great blessings You have bestowed upon You Church and Her servants and come to You when we are in need of Mercy and Forgiveness with sincere contrition and sorrow for our sins. May we not squander the opportunity You have so graciously given us to encounter You here on earth so that we may live with You forever in the world to come. Amen.
We like to think of ourselves as good people, and when we realize that we have made mistakes, it can bruise our sensitive egos. However, we must not forget that all of us are born into a more or less failure prone state due to the decisions of our first relatives. Concupiscence leads us to innately seek wordly pleasures over what our hearts and minds often tell us are better more holy choices. In our weakness, we typically give in to this temptation, and this more often than not leads to our committing sins and inevitably to the “Confession line.” We must remember, especially those of us who are little souls walking the little way, that God knows this about us and He has instituted the Sacrament because He knows we greatly need His Mercy if we are to enter Heaven. He did not give His priests the ability to forgive sins because He wanted to punish us by making us go to Confession – although waiting in the line sometimes does seem like punishment – but because He wanted us to know and trust in His infinite Mercy and Love for us. Do not be embarrassed or saddened when you realize it is time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation but instead feel comforted by the fact that God is speaking to you when He gives you the desire to meet Him in the Sacrament. You are embracing the road to Salvation He Himself established for you and His Chruch, and are therefore demonstrating your faithfulness to Him and trust in His teachings. As a child believes in their father when he helps support them as they take their first swim in a lake let us also trust in our Father in Heaven as He sustains us and keeps us from drowning in the lake of sin.
Anxiety surrounding confession perhaps stems from the uncertainty of forgiveness. However, God promises us infinite forgiveness if we ask with contrition and sorrow for our sins. Therefore, while we may feel justifiably nervous when we approach a friend we have wronged because they, like us, may be imperfect in their ability to forgive and therefore may withhold their forgiveness from us we need not have this fear when approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Of course, in some extenuating cases, a priest may choose to withhold absolution until further discussion can be had but this is until he can determine if one is truly sorry for their sins and intends to amend their life. If you approach the Confessional with faith, sorrow, and a determination to change your life, there is no reason to fear that God will not be merciful to you. God does not hold petty grudges as we humans do. Therefore, I pray, we may all approach the confessional with confidence in God’s Mercy and benefit from this most excellent and life-changing Sacrament.
So, the next time you realize you need to make a confession do so with eagerness and faithfulness in your Lord. If you feel a bit nervous think back to what helped you feel more secure as a child. Often, when I was a child, I would hold my mother’s hand when I had to go into a building that made me uncomfortable, or when I had to meet new people. If you feel a bit nervous to attend confession try holding your Mothers hand – your Rosary – as you make your confession. You may find that She comes to comfort you and soothe your anxiety as you meet Her Son in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Your Blessed Mother knows your fears and anxieties better than you know them yourself. Trust in Her to guide you to Her Son, and you will never again be nervous to receive the great blessings contained in this extremely rewarding Sacrament.
On that note, let us close this letter with a prayer in common, my brothers and sisters in Christ, from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Forgive, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the sins of Thy servants; so that we who cannot become pleasing to Thee from our own actions, may be saved by the pleading of the Mother of Thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.