Approaching the Father of Mercies
Sr. Mary Mother of the Crucified Metcalf, SSVM | March 18, 2018
God in His love for us desires that we “walk blameless in His sight”, yet knowing our human condition and weaknesses, extends to us His mercy when we fall along the way. Through the Sacrament of Confession, we receive a great gift: the opportunity to approach the “Father of Mercies” and to receive His healing forgiveness of our sins.
Through our preparatory examination of conscience, we are humbled before Christ whom we have offended by our sins, yet who has loved us even to the point of “death on a cross” so that He may save us from them. I find it is always helpful to remember that it is Christ, concealed in the person of the priest who receives our confession and who prays the liberating prayer of absolution over us. I can still clearly remember the confession that changed the course of my life. As a sophomore in college, I had wandered quite far from the Lord. During a retreat put on by the campus ministry, I found myself in line for confession. After I had laid my sins before Christ, the priest began to speak, yet I knew that although I saw and heard the priest speaking to me, it was Christ Himself who was speaking, healing and forgiving me. I left that confessional having met the “Father of Mercies”, as the prayer of absolution puts it, and I was changed by the encounter. I often refer to that confession as “the confession which saved my soul and saved my vocation” because the mercy of Christ that I experienced along with the return to a state of grace, set me on a path of joyful discipleship.
That confession taught me a profound truth that I call to mind as I prepare for confession: it is Christ whom I meet in this Sacrament. Christ who suffered and died so that sin would not have power over us. Our Lord extends to us a treasure in confession: His mercy. Sure, it is uncomfortable at times, and always difficult to see the ways we have offended Him, yet with the eyes of faith, we approach the medic of our souls and allow Him to heal the parts of us that keep us from growing in holiness.
May we always approach this Sacrament, knowing that in it, we will encounter the Father of Mercies and receive the grace that we need to walk blameless in His sight.
Straining the Relationship: Confessing Your Venial Sins
Dr. David Cloutier – The Catholic University of America, School of Theology and Religious Studies | March 11, 2018
Mortal sins break your relationship with God (from your end, not God’s); venial sins only strain it. Unfortunately, this “only” can tempt all of us to imagine that it’s no big deal to strain our relationship with God! Yet consider friendships, work relationships, and even marriages: don’t we know from experience that many of these can (slowly) go bad from “little things” that create exactly this kind of strain? So some of us may have run off, like the prodigal son, and completely abandoned the Father’s house. That’s mortal sin. But a lot of us may stay in the Father’s house, but spend a lot of time and energy on stuff that is not the Father’s will. That’s venial sin, and during Lent, I sometimes feel awash in it! It’s just chronic. There’s always one more episode of video to stream, or one more snarky post to send on to friends who will share my judgmentalism. There’s always the poor and struggling and lonely and lost, who need my time and efforts that I so often give to something else. There’s cowardly retreat from the hard and difficult work of disagreement and working things out. There’s doing the easy parts of my vocation, while avoiding the harder parts. Don’t we all have a list like this? There’s always “not enough time” to pray. There’s the nursing of social grudges, the superficial judging on appearances, the little dishonesties that seem woven into life. There’s the consumerism and materialism that goes unchallenged, with its “throwaway” mentality that then appears when we start view sexual partners or even lives as disposable. These may be daily patterns or only occasional binges triggered by something. But all fall short of the full dignity of our humanity, and the fullness of our relationship with God. They are all little ways we neglect what God is calling us to be, what true friendship with God (as Aquinas calls it) entails. And we neglect this vocation… for what? In reality, for very little things, little comforts, little anxieties. But plenty of them! This Lent, some may be called back to God after running away from home. But in making our confession, those of us living in the household should consider how much strain we are putting on our relationship with God with all these venial sins that get in the way.
What Happens in Confession? Something Very Real.
Msgr. Charles Pope – Holy Redeemer St. Cyprian | March 3, 2018
At its heart, Confession is a conversation. It is a conversation between the priest and penitent, and at a deeper level it is a conversation with the Lord. But the point to begin with is that Confession is a conversation.
As a priest I can say that my first reaction when someone comes to confession is delight. I am so happy that a son or daughter of God seeks His mercy and is living a reflective life that realizes we all fall short of God’s glory.
Yet here we are, two sinners, willing and able to speak of sin and call upon God’s immense mercy. Yes, most every priest who listens to your confession is powerfully aware that he too is a sinner. Priests are also humbly aware that it is really the Lord who wants to work through them and that only the Lord can bring true healing and absolution in and through this holy conversation.
Burdens can surely be lifted by the simple human interaction, but there is nothing more consoling than hearing the magnificent, freeing and healing words: “I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” They come through the human voice of the priest, but they are spoken by Christ himself who mystically and sacramentally works through him.
Yes, it is Christ’s work, but the human interaction is also important. We human beings have bodies, not merely souls. We are meant to encounter the Lord not only spiritually but also physically in His Body the Church. Yes, the Church is the Body of Christ.
What happens in Confession? Two sinners gather, two members of the Body of Christ. But where the Body is, there also is the Head, Christ Jesus! And through one of his members, the priest, he heals another. He heals as God but also in a very human way. Two sinners having a conversation, speaking and listening, real words, real people, in a real place, and the Lord Jesus elevates this simple human encounter and by his grace mediates a true and real encounter with himself, the High Priest, who is rich in mercy.
Keep it real! Confession is a human encounter, it is a divine encounter, it is a real encounter. It is the holy conversation that makes us whole.
Confessing and Repenting to Receive Reconciliation
Sara Blauvelt – Director for Catechesis | Feb. 25, 2018
Our dignity as children of God does not negate that we often fail in loving God and loving others. The Sacrament of Penance is the great gift of God to heal these wounds and restore our dignity as God’s beloved children. Confession, the name we often use to refer to the sacrament, is really a moment within the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The hard work of confessing our sins begins in prayer. Through prayerful reflection, we identify our sinfulness – the times that we have injured our relationship with God and others. In Confession we tell these sins to the priest knowing that he hears them with the heart of Jesus. Through the act of confessing our sins we are able to take responsibility for our faults and accept God’s mercy as the initial step in healing. The outward signs of the sacraments point to the inward grace and conversion that is happening. We offer the penance given to us by the priest as an outward expression of gratitude for the great gift of mercy as a sign of reconciliation with God and others. Reconciliation is the fruit of the sacrament. Freed from the burden of our sins, and infused with the grace and mercy of God we are filled with the Holy Spirit so we can live out the dismissal of the Rite: “Go in peace and proclaim to the world the wonderful works of God who has brought you salvation.”
Receiving God’s mercy through the hands of His shepherds
Fr. Conrad Murphy | Feb. 18, 2018
A good friend once told me, “I’m not Catholic because I don’t need any priest getting between me and God.” Is that what is going on in confession? Imagine that you are trying to talk to a friend a long way away. You could listen really hard and maybe hear what your friend is trying to say, or you could use a cell phone. The phone doesn’t get between you and your friend, it enables you to hear your friend. It would be ridiculous for you to say, I don’t want any phone to get between me and my friend. God doesn’t need a priest to forgive us of our sins, he is all knowing and all powerful. We could make a sincere act of contrition and tell God our sins without a priest, but we as human beings are not good at hearing God clearly. We have a lot of other things which get in the way. God knows this, and he chooses to work in our world through human beings, who we can hear and clearly understand. That’s why he sent His Son to us, God made man, to speak to us in our own language in a way we can understand. Jesus wanted to continue for all time his ministry of mercy, giving us the Sacrament of Confession in order that we can clearly hear God and know we are forgiven. The priest, thanks to his ordination, is like the phone that connects you more intimately to God, from whom you can have certainty of now being free from sin. The priest doesn’t get between you and God, he connects you more closely to God. So that when you hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins…” you can know with certainty that God himself is forgiving you. And that certainty brings such joy and peace!
Check out this Catholic Answers explanation of why we confess to a priest.