Confession. Quite possibly the most ominous of the Sacraments. But I would argue that it also the one with the most rewards. Not only can we freely receive this Sacrament as much as we feel necessary, but it can truly, in a very real way, improve how we live our everyday lives. Not to mention the physical rewards can be felt immediately.
Embarrassing admission: I’ve had some really really really tough confessions over the years. Some things I was absolutely ashamed to tell another human — let alone a priest in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ. But never have I ever left feeling judged. The priests truly show mercy. And boy, have I needed it. I’ve always left feeling relief, joy and peace. Penances were never as challenging as I felt perhaps I deserved (there’s that mercy at work). It truly felt as though a burden was lifted from my shoulders. Much like when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
This is truly what a good, honest participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is like.
So I am blessed to have several wonderful, dear priest friends. Some folks think I’m crazy, but I prefer to share my confession with one of them rather than a priest I don’t know. They know me; they know the context to my sins. And due to that, the advice is always on point. And you know what? I don’t worry about them remembering my confession because they don’t. And even if they did, they aren’t allowed by Canon Law to remind me that they remember. Such freedom in this! 😉 This is the idea behind having a spiritual director who is also a priest so they can absolve your sins with the context and give you advice (did you know that’s what a priest does before he gives you your penance?).
This last summer I asked a priest buddy to hear a confession that was going to be full of some heavy stuff. It required a lot of preparation on my part. It was a confession where I felt the need to repeat some sins I felt I only half-owned in previous confessions or things perhaps I omitted. This could be referred to as a General Confession, though not sure we fully played by the rules to truly call it that. Regardless, it took more than an hour and was the most honest I’ve ever been with another person. I was scared out of my mind to participate in this confession, but both Father and I knew it was what I needed to grow in my faith and let go of some old wounds I had been battling for years. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my adult life and I am grateful everyday for the mercy and peace I felt when Father placed his heads on my head to pray the Prayer of Absolution over me. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving through my body, truly letting the sin out of me, unburdening me, and allowing me to feel freedom and the light yoke in which Jesus promises us. It was a day that changed my life for the better.
Now I can’t talk about Confession without talking about the g-word. Yep. G-R-A-C-E. So one thing to always remember: grace isn’t earned. God freely gives this beautiful gift that helps us continue to live our relationship with Jesus Christ. So the more we choose the path which God hopes for us, the more we are able to receive the outpouring of grace. Guess what that means? After confession, we are more open to God because confession repairs the distorted relationship. Let the grace flow from there, y’all! It’s “easier” to keep living on the straight and narrow (though I’d argue living a life for Christ is more like the curvy and wide cause that’s how fun it is to be a Christian) with all that grace all over the place!
Lent is a penitential season in the Church. This is why you will often find longer than normal lines at the Confessional. The Catholic Church encourages us to seek this Sacrament especially during this season as we approach the celebration of Easter. On the top of how often to go to confession, the Canon says:
“Can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.”
If you haven’t gone to confession in a while, Lent is a great time to go. There are many penance services around dioceses as well as priests making themselves more available with additional options for confession. What a better way to prepare for the celebration of Easter than to clean your soul!
Whether you’ve been to confession recently or haven’t been in years, prayerfully consider making it a priority during this Lenten season. Know that you will be in my prayers.
To sum it up, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we receive:
What are you waiting for?
Nota bene: Father Darryl Millette graciously provided the photo from his parish confessionals in Sacred Heart Parish in Watson, Saskatchewan.