Last week our 2nd graders received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. That’s always such a special evening. These young people have been preparing for this for quite a while, and I’m sure they must have been pretty nervous about making their first confession, but as they walked out of the church at the end of it all, most of them were all smiles. All the nervousness had disappeared, and they looked like a huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders. And that’s exactly what happened! It’s no wonder that they were beaming, since they had just experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness and the freedom it brings to our hearts.
I am always inspired by how seriously these students treat this sacrament, and how joyful they are after receiving it. In fact, I think they’re a good inspiration for all of us — after all, I know that 2nd graders aren’t the only ones who get nervous about going to confession! I know that many adults are intimidated by the sacrament, especially if it’s been a while since they’ve been. And we can come up with all sorts of rationalizations for not going.
However, I think that Advent is a perfect time to remember that confession is actually a gift. It’s a visible sign that God loves us even though we’re sinners, and that He is willing to extend His mercy to us time and time again, however often we’re willing to come back to Him asking for forgiveness. Yes, it’s difficult to say your sins out loud in the presence of a priest, but it’s also extremely liberating – it’s amazing how summoning the courage to voice your sins helps to loosen their grip on you. And it’s also amazing how hearing those words of absolution – “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – can be such a powerful experience of healing, especially when we’ve been holding onto those sins for a long time. What an incredible sign of God’s goodness.
In last week’s bulletin column, I listed the many opportunities that we’re offering for confession during Advent. And if none of those work, Fr. Geoff and I are happy to make an appointment, so there are no excuses! Take a tip from our 2nd graders, and make sure that confession is a part of your Advent preparation.