Growing up, I believed that going to confession was one of the scariest things that I could do. I was incredibly nervous because confession is uncomfortable. We have to dig deep, reflect, sit in silence and be sincerely sorry for the things we have done that hurt another. As humans, those things seem hard, scary and many of us would much rather avoid them.
Often times, I would rather avoid them. Regardless of my desire to avoid the sacrament and to stay in solitude, God has always been pursuing me. God is pursuing each of our hearts deeply and his desire to mend, heal and support our hearts is overwhelming. Slowly becoming aware of this, I took the leap. I walked into the confessional. I poured out my heart – not only the things that were easy to say, but each and every sin, failing and anxiety that I had been holding onto. In this moment I believed I would be judged, condemned, laughed at, or that Jesus, through the eyes of the priest, would not understand. But would you like to know what happened instead?
I was set free.
The first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has one of the most beautiful and compelling quotes, reading “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him and to love him with all his strength.” At each moment, at every time and every place, God draws close to you. His desire for you and your heart is undeniable. As a Church, the deeply held belief that God created us freely, in a plan of sheer goodness, is at the forefront. As Catholics, we believe that sin separates us from God. Sin separates us from being able to share in the blessed life that God created us to join. He always draws close to us, regardless of our sin, but it is our decision to accept his eternal and never-ending love. Confession is the way in which we can continuously make the free choice to say yes to God again, to reflect on Him, his love and the ways that we have fallen.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation changes our lives. It sets us free. When we seek out confession, our hearts are actively changed. Within the sacrament, we deeply encounter forgiveness on the most intimate level imaginable. In the moment that we participate in this sacrament, we are forgiven and have had the opportunity to reflect on the ways that we have let ourselves, our neighbors and Jesus down. It is often easy to see the way in which holding a grudge, living in anxiety or living without forgiveness can impact a person. All around us, we see turmoil, fear, anxiety, hopelessness. The Sacrament of Reconciliation works actively to provide hope and forgiveness in the world and allows us to love freely and encounter our neighbors without fear. Forgiveness transforms lives. Forgiveness brings hope to the hopeless, community to those living in solitude, love to those dwelling in the darkness of hatred, and peace to those in fear. God is Love itself, and in his infinite love, not only calls us to forgive others but also to be forgiven for the ways that we hurt those around us, and his mercies are new every day.
As a husband or a wife, this forgiveness is imperative to married life. Marriage, the most intimate of earthly relationships, exposes our shortcomings many times a day. Marriage requires constant forgiveness and constant conversion of heart. For those who are married, I can assume that you have had to apologize and seek forgiveness from your spouse more than once. I also assume that you have had to forgive and reconcile more than once. The Sacrament of Reconciliation supports our marriages and the intimacy of relationships. Frequenting the sacrament as a couple allows us to not only learn how to reconcile and seek forgiveness of our sins towards God and our spouse but also encourages us to learn to accept the forgiveness that is being offered to us, which can often be as challenging as apologizing in the first place. The Sacrament of Reconciliation supports us in a tangible way. It allows us to become closer to God but also to become closer to our spouse by allowing them seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness to them. Reconciliation frees us to love our spouse and to love God fully.
Mother Teresa once said, “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” One of the best ways to love our families is to seek out this radically beautiful act of contrition and forgiveness that the Church offers us. In this way, one of the simplest ways that we can change the world is to love our family well through reflecting on our shortcomings and bringing them to the Father. In this, we encounter forgiveness, we are restored, and our hearts are made new. Today, I encourage you to reflect on the ways that you have stumbled and the ways that you could love bigger and better. Conversion is the process of being convicted so deeply of something that we are compelled to take action. In this way, I challenge you to become convicted of our need to learn to forgive better, allow ourselves to be forgiven and to learn to love those around us in a deeper way. Allow this conviction of love to compel you towards action, the act of seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I promise, that over time and practice, it will change your life for the better. You will be made free by God himself. Next week, we will discuss on the blog practical steps to seek confession and make a good confession.