Fear, anxiety, dread, embarrassment. These are all emotions one may feel when faced with having to go to confession. This is not how it needs to be, in fact it’s not how it’s meant to be. One thing to remember is that the sacrament of Confession is less about us and more about God. How so? Let’s take a look.
We are going to sin. It is an attribute of our fallen humanity. We must however take heart. The sacrament of reconciliation is the tool by which we can clean our dirty garments. The real awesome thing about the confessional is not the sinner nor the sin. The power of confession is the mercy of God.
We are indeed loved by a merciful God, our Father, who wants nothing more than a one on one personal relationship with each and every one of his children. He knows we are going to stumble. In fact, he knows when we are going to stumble even before we do!
Wisdom from the Past
Tertullian of Carthage in his work On Repentance tells us:[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness.
This was written in 200 AD and people were reading Tertullian’s writing then that had the same feelings you may be having now. 1800 plus years later the response is still the same as well. God’s healing mercy is more powerful than fear, anxiety or any other misgiving you may be having. We should keep in mind that the Lord doesn’t demand that we attain every virtue but that we simply keep trying. Taking that one step further Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t call us to be successful but to be faithful”.
Tips for Today
Before heading to confession you should you should conduct a good examination of conscience. One popular source to aid in this is Father Larry Richards’ Sin List. A simple straightforward list that covers the gambit of potential sins related to the Ten Commandments. If like me, you prefer to take advantage of technology, there are quite a number of apps on the market today that allow for a checkbox style listing to aid in cataloging your thoughts for the confessional. These are all wonderful aids in jarring your memory so that you do not forget anything during your confession.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl has also written a fantastic resource for those that have been away from the Sacrament. The book, The Light Is On For You: The Life-Changing Power of Confession grew out of the successful program of the same name that was started by Cardinal Wuerl and others. As the Cardinal states: “Leaving the light on is a basic family courtesy. It is a beacon of love, care, concern and safety – the good things we associate with home.” So it is with the confessional whose electric light is the sign for penitents to enter.
Take this season of Lent and make it a time to spiritually renew yourself. Take full advantage of this sacrament to renew yourself. Cleanse your soul and move forward in the light of the Lord.