Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Blessing of Reconciliation

This past week, my eight-year-old received his first Penance. My baby, my youngest, has officially reached the age of reason. He was a little nervous about it, he said; the night before, when I sat with him to help him go through the Ten Commandments, he looked at the list briefly and announced that he was ready.

This year, the second graders celebrated First Penance during their Religious Education classes, and as I was preparing for my own lesson for my fifth grade class (coincidentally, on the Sacrament of Reconciliation), he was literally hopping up and down: "I wanna go to my first Confession! I wanna go to my first Confession!" As I sat in the pew and waited, I wondered what he would say to the priest. After his brief time in the confession room, he bowed his head for his penance, and then turned around to look at me, with a great big grin on his face. "That was fine!"

That is how I feel each time I go to Confession. I feel a little nervous about the prospect of stating my sins out loud, even though I know that God already knows my weaknesses. When I emerge after receiving absolution, I always feel a great sense of joy. "That was fine, and I am clean again!"

As a convert to the Catholic faith, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was one that I struggled to understand; I knew if I asked God for forgiveness for my sins in prayer, he would forgive me. Why did I need to go to a priest? And wasn't Christ's death on the cross for my sins enough to reconcile me to Him? I have learned over the years that YES, I can go to God in prayer and confess my sin; and YES, His saving work on the Cross, once for all, freed me from slavery to sin. But I've also learned that sometimes it is helpful, and even necessary to confess my sin to a priest. First of all, it is comforting to have a person, a representative of Christ on Earth, say to me, "I absolve you from you sins; go in peace." The priest who heard my first confession nearly thirteen years ago, said to me, "These sins are behind you; you've confessed them, now FORGET ABOUT THEM." I have also learned that the Sacrament of Penance was instituted by Christ himself, when he appeared to his disciples after His Resurrection:

Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." --John 20:21-23

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift from God that too many of us take for granted. Let's not forget that Jesus loves us infinitely and knows all of our faults, and we can approach the confessional with joy, not trepidation. My kids have figured that out, and I'll hope I'll remember, too!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful beginning to this most wonderful Sacrament for your son! My children who are old enough to receive this Sacrament have no trepidation on going. In fact they are often the ones who remind me it is time to go again. We strive to go at least once a month. I am grateful to God for this Sacrament. It provides so much healing to my, at times, weary soul. May your son continue to receive this Sacrament on a regular basis!



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