The Sacrament of Penance/ Reconciliation/Confession
How long has it been since you celebrated the sacrament of Penance? You can’t remember? Maybe you have wondered like some other Catholics; does the church still teach that we have to go to confession? Or you think “I have committed too many sins, I am too embarrassed to confess my sins to a priest” Or perhaps you think “I do not know what to confess, I think I live a pretty good life”. Or it might be as simple as “I do not remember how to go to confession “
Yes, the church still urges us to use the sacrament of confession frequently. Only God can forgive sins. But Jesus willed that the church should be his instrument of forgiveness on earth. On Easter night when he appeared to his apostles he breathed on them and said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you……..receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain they are retained” Jn. 20:22. Bishops and priests continue this ministry today in the sacrament of confession. It is always God who forgives as the Catechism reminds us, “The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner. The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant” CCC # 1465 The church still teaches that Catholics should celebrate this sacrament frequently ; “after having attained the age of discretion , each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year .Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion , even if he experiences deep contrition , without having first received sacramental absolution “ CCC # 1457 And the catechism goes on to say “confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the church “ CCC # 1458
Confessing your sins to another human being (also a sinner) is not easy. But a priest, conscious of his own faults and sins is not surprised at anyone’s confession . In our Reconciliation Room we do have a screen so that your identity is hidden from the priest. The priest is not there to judge you or condemn you but to serve as the shepherd or loving father who welcomes back the repentant sinner and celebrates with him/her God’s mercy and forgiveness. The focus in confession is not so much on the penitent or on sin, but on God’s mercy. Recall the words of scripture, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” Rom 8:39
So you don’t know what sins you have committed or what to confess! Many people do live holy lives avoiding mortal sin but we do well to remember the words of Saint John , “ If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves , and the truth is not in us” 1 Jn 1 ; 8 All sin is an offense against God . To appreciate the magnitude of any sin we should recall the words of Saint Paul, “You were washed , you were sanctified , you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God “ 1 Cor 6: 11. If you are not sure what to confess I suggest you go to the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and read through the information there including several examinations of conscience for married people, singles, young people and more. Go to www.USCCB.org and type in Penance in the question box .You can also find a brochure on the book rack of our church with an examination of conscience. Also if you really want to inform yourself on the catholic teaching on this sacrament read the Catechism of the Catholic Church chapter two, The Sacraments of Healing, especially #1420 to #1470 on the sacrament of Penance.
Yes, all Catholics should celebrate this sacrament on a regular basis. Every sacrament is a sacred place where we encounter the living God. If you can, get to confession before Christmas and if not make a New Year’s resolution to return to confession as soon as possible. Saint Matthias celebrates confession every Saturday from 3.30 – 4.30 pm. in the Reconciliation Room off the front vestibule of the church. Confessions are also available every Tuesday and Friday morning during Advent and Lent, after the 8am mass. And of course you can always arrange for confession by simply calling any priest. Remember those words of Christ, “I tell you there will be more joy among the angels of God over one repentant sinner” Lk 15;10