In recent years, a name change has taken place with the “Sacrament of Confession.” We no longer call the act “Confession,” but rather “Reconciliation” and/or “Penance.”
This name change better reflects what happens in this celebration. We do not go to the priest just to list our sins, have them forgiven, and receive a penance; but rather, and most importantly, we come to the priest to celebrate the forgiveness of God that we experience in our lives. We come to the Sacrament with a sense of joy for what God has already done in our lives and what God continues to do—showering us with unconditional love.
The verbalization of our sins, the verbalization of the words of absolution, and the acceptance of a penance are steps in the process of celebrating God’s forgiveness and unconditional love for us.
If we are open to God’s love, we begin to experience the many ways in which God forgives us our sins in the daily occurrences of our lives.
When we ask forgiveness from someone we have offended, our sins are forgiven. When we accept the forgiveness of another, our sins are forgiven. Each time we talk to God in the silence of our hearts and sincerely seek forgiveness from God, our sins are forgiven. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we hear the words of the priest shortly before the reception of Holy Communion—“Behold the Lamb of God…who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”—our sins are forgiven.
So why go to the priest? We do so in order to celebrate the forgiveness of God we experience in our daily lives, to ritualize it, sacramentalize it and, as in all things, to place our lives and God’s involvement in our lives within the context of the Church, the Body of Christ.
The priest “stands in” for the community. As we verbalize our sins, we are mindful that there is no such thing as a personal sin. Our sins, no matter how personal we may think them to be, affect others— “No Man Is An Island.” We live in community. Our lives always touch the lives of others.
Telling our sins, hearing ours sins from our own lips, helps us to be real and to acknowledge our weakness and our dependence upon God. It is so easy to rationalize our sinfulness when we talk to ourselves “in our heads.” It is an entirely different experience when we hear ourselves verbalize our sinfulness. Those sins become much more real! We become much more aware and sensitive of our responsibilities to others.
The priest “stands in” for Christ. Hearing the words of absolution, the forgiveness of God, from the lips of the priest is indeed comforting. You know how wonderful it feels when a family member or friend says, “I love you!” In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we allow God to say those words to us in and through the person of the priest.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not something to be feared but to be celebrated with trust and confidence because of God’s unconditional love for us.
This weekend, on Sunday, March 4, at 4:00pm our Parish celebrates her Lenten Communal Penance Service. In this Parish celebration, our Candidates who will be celebrating the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist at this year’s Easter Vigil will be present and celebrate this Sacrament for the first time. Your presence will also be a sign of support to them.
Many priest/confessors will be available for you. They will be in Church waiting for you so that through the words of absolution God will once again say to you:
“I forgive you and I love you unconditionally!”
Will you be there to hear God’s words?