How strange is it that we find the answers when we least expect it. I had one of those moments a while ago at a meeting on the New Evangelization. Before I get to that answer, let me start with the question.
A few years ago, during Lent, I went to confession. Now, most people reading this are probably thinking to themselves, “So what?” and unfortunately that is what most Catholics would be saying as well; just look at the almost non-existent numbers these days of people who go to confession. Truth be told, I was one of them. Until that day at the service, it was awhile since I last went. You should have seen the expression on the priest’s face when I started out with that familiar line, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. It has been about twenty-five years since my last confession.” After a few seconds, the priest smiled and said, “Well then, let’s just take it slow and start with just a couple of them for tonight.”
We talked things over for a couple minutes, then we came to that point when Father reached over to me and said, “Your sins are forgive,“ accompanied by my penance. I rose from the seat, thanked Father, and returned to my pew. As I knelt down to begin my penance, I took in what I can only describe as the deepest, refreshing, and most relaxing breath of fresh air ever in my life. You may have heard the saying about that it felt as if the world was taken off your shoulders, well that doesn’t even begin to describe the “relief” that I felt at that moment. After I finished my penance and the service concluded, I remained in the pew awestruck, trying to figure out why I was feeling this way.
Like I mentioned before, that was my first time in confession for a long time, but there were countless times during that span between confessions that I asked for God’s forgiveness in my heart and I know that he heard me and I believe he forgave me each time. So why was this time, in confession, so different? Why was that feeling of forgiveness so much more powerful than all those other times outside of the sacrament?
Well, let us now jump ahead in time to the fore mentioned meeting. During the archbishop’s talk, the topic of the sacraments came up and before long, Reconciliation became the focus. There is no way I can do justice to the analogy he gave, so here is one of my own that I feel hits the answer right on the head, so to speak.
This story is played out in all the courtrooms today: a convicted criminal stands before a judge; the judge asks him if there are any last words before he decides his sentencing; in some manner, the criminal says that he is sorry for what he had done; the judge gives the sentencing, and the criminal is taken away. So who is left there in the courtroom after it is all over…? The victim who the criminal’s sin was against; the one person who truly deserved an apology, face to face, from the person who did this against him. I don’t know about you, but if I were the victim, I would sure want that chance, that face-to-face apology.
Guess, what? So does God. It is not that he wants it, but it is more like he deserves it from us. That face-to-face apology, which can only be achieved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is our chance as the sinner to look right at our victim, God, through the presence of the priest and sit there face to face to show him our true, sincere sorrowfulness of our transgressions against him. It was upon hearing this message from the archbishop that I got my answer.
It is one thing to say we are sorry for something we did, but it’s a whole other matter (and more difficult) to say we are sorry right to that person eye to eye, face to face. As I said before, I believe God forgave me each time I asked him in my heart for his forgiveness. However, that feeling I had after I repented to him face to face in the sacrament was a true gift from God saying to me that not only did he forgive me as he always did in the past, but to thank me for stopping to take this time to come to him as a sign of my love and respect toward him. It is the least we can do.
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