Penance (Reconciliation)

Confession, The Forgiveness Of Sins

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven (Jn 20:23)

As a parish priest, one of the most rewarding things I do is spend time hearing Confessions and passing on God’s mercy. It’s encouraging, even for the priest, to hear someone come in, burdened by sin, and walk out lightened and refreshed, having turned their hearts back to God. Confession is an encounter with God’s mercy; we turn our sins over to Him and receive His forgiveness and the grace to live the faith.

Confession Is A Grace-filled Moment

Sometimes, we look at Confession as something that we simply have to do, or merely as a part of our monthly routine. While that’s not a bad thing, I think it’s also helpful for us to look at what a gift we’ve been given. Confession is an incredibly grace-filled moment, through which God lightens the hearts of His faithful. St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us that sin “darkens the intellect” and “saps our joy.” If we’ve been holding on to sin, or for whatever reason haven’t availed ourselves to the Sacrament in a while, we probably understand this.

Confession Frees Us From Sin

Confession frees us from the sadness of sin and restores our joy in Christ. Throughout the history of the Church, the saints were some of the most devoted to Confession. They realized their sinfulness, and spent their lives returning to God’s path. The saints of the Church are typically those who are keenly aware of their need for God’s mercy, and those who have a deep appreciation of that gift. The saints didn’t try to convince themselves that “I’ve never done anything that bad” or that “I don’t have to confess----God forgives me anyway.” The saints sought to live in accord with what the Scriptures and Tradition have given to us, putting aside their pride and humbly approaching the Lord’s mercy in the Confessional.

When we confess our sins, we acknowledge the sin and approximate number of times it was committed. We don’t have to get into great detail about all the circumstances (when we do, we oftentimes are trying to justify ourselves.) While there may be times where some counseling is appropriate, normally, the priest just offers a few words of encouragement. The Rite is relatively simple, yet its effects are incredibly profound.

The Priest Prays For Us During Confession

Throughout the celebration of the Sacrament, the priest is required by Church law to pray for the penitents. I like to think we’d do that anyway. Priests, as a rule, also do penance on behalf of those who come to us for Confession. As regular recipients of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance ourselves, we know the Sacrament from both sides of the screen. We know the expressions of God’s mercy and love, and having received it ourselves, want to share the renewed joy that a good, honest Confession can bring.

Confession Is A Place Of God's Mercy

Generally, the penance that is prescribed is meant as a ‘medicine’ for sin and is usually in the form of offering prayer or acts of charity. The priest sits as spiritual physician and as judge who knows deeply that this is the place of God’s mercy, forgiveness and healing. An interesting tidbit—you actually can ‘appeal’ the penance if it seems too harsh.

All in all, a good Confession frees us from the entrapment of sin. We do our penance to offer some form of reparation for our sins (in a sense, to help fix what sin broke) and as a way to allow God’s healing to take fuller hold of our hearts. With Lent starting soon, I would encourage everyone to make a good Confession, especially if it’s been a little longer than we’d like. God’s mercy and forgiveness are available!

Taken from the parish bulletin: A Message From Fr. Kris McKusky (Pastor Emeritus, Holy Angels, St. Isidore, St. Mary): Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time 2019.

Please check the bulletin for scheduled times, or call Father directly to make other arrangements.