When I prepare to receive this sacrament I get physically queasy. I think of excuses not to go. I’d rather do just about anything than confess my sins. I am frustrated by my list—maybe if I had something dramatic and shocking to confess I would recognize the need more easily. But too often my list is all too familiar and too grubby. Too often I recognize my own pettiness and my own selfishness. Too often I struggle with those weaknesses in myself that seem to be so much a part of me. Preparing for confession puts a spotlight on the worst parts of me. Not fun!
But for all my concerns beforehand, I can say with all my heart that I love this sacrament. I love it because I never fail to encounter Jesus when I humble myself enough to go.
I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences with the priests who have ministered to me over the years. But I have always heard Jesus’ voice speaking to me through them in three simple words: “I absolve you.” There is no greater joy for me than to hear those words spoken and to know that the power of God to heal, to forgive, to reconcile, and to restore resonates through those simple words. This is a grace that goes far beyond the human power of the words spoken. These words are backed by the tremendous love and power of God for me.
This is a grace that never fails. It doesn’t really matter what I feel. Something far beyond me takes place and I experience the freedom and the great love that is so personally shown to me. I may hate the idea of going, but I always love having gone. The process of growing closer to God is a slow one and it requires faith and honesty and commitment on my part. But my effort seems small compared to the great love given in this sacrament.
There are two new books that speak to this great action of God in our lives. The first is Living the Sacraments: Grace Into Action by Bert Ghezzi. The second is The Power of the Sacraments by Sr. Briege McKenna. These books both expose the sacraments to be personal encounters with Christ. If only our faith level was raised so we came expecting to encounter him! It is too easy to approach the sacraments as routines, as tasks to be accomplished. How much more wonderful is it when we recognize what is really going on and we let God come close to us in the sacraments.
We are just beginning the season of Lent. This is a time when we traditionally take a look at our lives and focus on God’s grace to help us change and put sin away from us. Have you avoided going to confession lately? This would be a great time to expose yourself to the tremendous love and mercy that Jesus so much wants to give you.
Photo credit: Idea Go