Every year during the seasons of Advent and Lent, the Church strongly encourages the sacrament of Reconciliation. Does the thought of going to reconciliation may make you feel a bit nervous? If so, you are not alone! Many Catholics often feel the shame and fear of expressing their sins to a priest. Others may have had a negative experience in the confessional and are apprehensive about returning. Still others may worry of what the priest will think of them or are embarrassed because they don’t remember what to say in the confessional.
Whatever fears you may have, be assured that the healing effects of the sacrament of Reconciliation far outweigh those fears, especially when we hear the consoling words of absolution, “… I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.” What greater joy is there than knowing that our sins have been forgiven! What greater joy is there than knowing that we are once again reconciled with God!
That is precisely what the sacrament of Reconciliation is meant to do, it is meant to help us grow in our love relationship with God. Yes, you read that correctly, we as Christians are called to have a personal love relationship with God our creator. The flipside is that this love relationship with God is intimately linked with our relationship with others as Jesus clearly states in the Gospel, “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of these least brothers of mine, you did (or did not do) for me.” (Mt. 25:40) Alas, as with all human relationships, there is the good, the bad and the ugly and often times the bad and the ugly come forth when we offend or hurt one another, be it in our thoughts, or our words, or in what we have done or ailed to do.
With that in mind, it is no coincidence that after Jesus’ resurrection, that he imparted to his first disciples this sacrament of Reconciliation, that is, the ability to forgive sins in Jesus’s name. Amazingly enough, this was his first gift to the church after his resurrection as he said to his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jn 20:19-23
This is the foundation of the sacrament of Reconciliation and there is no greater manifestation of God’s divine mercy than the forgiveness of sins. In their first encounter with Jesus after his resurrection, the disciples were relieved that he did not follow up with blame or retribution for abandoning him, instead he spoke simple words of love and mercy, forgiving them. By giving the disciples this wonderful gift of mercy, Jesus in turn expects his disciples and their successors to show the same love and mercy to those who come to confess their sins with the same hope of being reconciled and at peace with God knowing that they too have been forgiven.
That was my experience when I received the healing grace of Reconciliation during my college years. I was on a Marian pilgrimage and I felt inspired to go to Reconciliation. As I was confessing my sins in a nervous semiincoherent manner, the priest calmly asked me if I would like to do a confession of my whole life. At first I was hesitant, but reluctantly said yes. He gently guided me through the commandment and the seven deadly sins. It was one of the most difficult confessions I’ve ever done, but at the same time the most healing! After my Act of Contrition, the priest began to pray the words of absolution and in that moment, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and an indescribable sense of joy fill my heart as I realized that it was now Jesus’ healing grace that was working through the priest and at work within me.
Second only to the Eucharist is the sacrament of Reconciliation in the transfusion of grace it gives to the soul. Now as a priest, it has been an honor and privilege to be a coworker with Jesus in offering this healing sacrament of Reconciliation to the faithful. My advice during this Lenten Season, ‘Be Not Afraid’ to go to reconciliation, for what greater joy is there than knowing that our sins have been forgiven! What greater joy is there than knowing that we are once again reconciled with God!
Fr. John – Pastor
Four Steps to Reconciliation
Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together
with the resolution not to sin again.”
The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others.
The priest speaks the words by which “God, the Father of Mercies” reconciles a sinner to himself through the merits of the Cross.
An important part of our healing is the “penance” the priest imposes in reparation for our sins.