Friday, December 23, 2016

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

When God forgives us, our sin in gone. He does not "remember" it. This was a theme of discussion on Catholic radio yesterday. And I took it as a sign and went to Confession. This is a Catholic sacrament that is also called Penance or Reconciliation. The faithful must receive this sacrament at least once a year, and Advent is a season in which it is common to go to Confession, as is Lent. Each time I go I wonder that I don't do it more often, as it benefits me spiritually in such a profound way! I want to commit to a monthly practice. I think I will make that a New Year's resolution!

Confession absolves one of sin and cleanses the soul. It is a supreme vehicle for spiritual healing. Sure, we can, should and do ask God for forgiveness of our sins privately, and of course we do this together at every Mass and every time we pray the Our Father. But the sacrament of Reconciliation provides a superabundance of grace, and it is the normative way for the forgiveness of sins, established by Jesus himself (John 20: 21-23).

When we go to Confession, we emerge with a clean soul, like a renewal of our Baptism. And having been absolved of our sins, we are no longer to call them to remembrance. I am realizing with increasing awareness that carrying guilt around for not being perfect puts an obstacle between myself and the Lord. The Holy Spirit can't work in me if I am replaying the same old, painful stories in my mind as if on a loop. They pile up, one upon another, until my shoulders sag. Depression looms, maybe even physical illness comes as a result. The Our Father tells us that we are forgiven by God in the same measure that we forgive those who trespass against us. Whether I fail to forgive myself or hold onto a grudge against another, I cannot be free. I cannot be the person that God has created me to be.

Do not hesitate to go to Confession. I know that sometimes we procrastinate because we are embarrassed about what we must confess. That is where humility comes in. This sacrament is such a treasure of the Church. And remember, not everyone you encounter has access to this superabundance of grace, so be kind and gentle, especially while setting necessary boundaries. Let's go to meet the baby Jesus with clean souls. Allow him to heal you. And let's stop living in the past. It is gone. The birth of Jesus is a great gift that reminds us to live in the present. It is only Satan who wants us to keep looking back over our shoulders, cringing with guilt and remorse.

Brethern, I do not consider that I have laid hold of it already. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind, I strain forward to what is before, I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3: 13-14

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