This past week, our second graders celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time as they continue to prepare for their First Communion this spring. It is always a great joy to witness our young parishioners receive the forgiveness of Christ in this sacrament for the first time, and I hope and pray that it’s the beginning of a lifelong habit of seeking out this sacramental grace on a regular basis to help us continually die to sin so that we can live more fully for Christ.
Hopefully, this is a habit that all of us continue today. I always feel blessed that we have such a strong number of people every Saturday at our weekly confessions, but I know that there are also many folks who haven’t been in a while. There are a lot of reasons why people may avoid the sacrament. For some, it’s scary to say your sins out loud in front of the priest. For others, they wonder why it’s necessary to go to confession rather than simply telling God you’re sorry for your sins. For others, they get frustrated about confessing the same sins over and over again.
However real these apprehensions may be, they shouldn’t keep us away from this incredible fountain of God’s mercy and grace. Yes, it takes some courage to speak our sins out loud in front of a priest, but many folks will tell you that when they finally do so, it’s like a big weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and these sins lose some of their power over them. As far as the need to confess your sins to a priest, I always counsel people that instead of asking “why do I need to do that?”, they should ask, “why would Jesus want me to do that?” After all, He’s the one who gave us the sacrament of reconciliation when He gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. He didn’t do that in order to put a roadblock in our way, or to make it harder to be forgiven. Quite the contrary; He did it because He knew it would make it easier for us to feel His loving forgiveness by hearing the words of absolution spoken out loud, and by being able to remember that forgiveness any time we’re tempted to ruminate on these past sins. And as far as confessing the same sins over and over again, I always tell people that this is normal — the devil will keep doing the same thing over again until it stops working. But frequent confession gives us the chance (and the grace) to make progress. It gives us the opportunity to recognize whether this sin is improving. If it is, the grace of the sacrament can help us to keep this improvement going. If it’s not, then it gives us the grace to turn things around. Either way, confessing the same sins again and again is no reason to stay away from the sacrament!
So if it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the sacrament, I encourage you to make this the year that you return! There are plenty of extra opportunities during Advent, and if none of these work (or if you just want to block off more time), simply email me or Fr. Cameron for an appointment. And if you are a regular at the sacrament, consider inviting a friend or relative who hasn’t been in a while to come with you. After all, the sacrament of reconciliation gives us a beautiful experience of God’s mercy unlike any other. I’d love for as many people as possible to take advantage of it!