The joy of confession

Those who live by God's merciful love and go to confession are ready to respond to the Lord's call.

Jennifer Elizabeth Terranova-October 1, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Pope confesses to a young man during WYD 2023 in Lisbon (CNS photo / Vatican Media)

Who would have thought that a four-month "pity party" was God's invitation to meet with Him for weekly confession?

Our Savior called me to the confessional in the midst of my lamentations: I am now an addict!

The last few months and years have been difficult in every way. It seemed as if I was under attack, and the more I tried to stand firm in my faith and take the moral high road when the wrong thing happened, the worse things progressed. It didn't seem fair.

So I did what most Catholics do. I prayed more and begged God to have mercy on my poor broken heart. What did He do? Nothing. Or so I thought.

No one is ever prepared when tragedy strikes, but with God's grace, we somehow move on. However, when another death occurs immediately after, and financial problems arise, it is easy to feel like a target, and thus, the "pity party" begins.

As a person who attends Mass every day and volunteers at two churches, I often take advantage of some of the religious "perks," so to speak. During this particular period, I sought spiritual counsel from the priests and asked each of them for weekly blessings. While all this provided a respite from suffering, it seemed that the enemy was working overtime, and it was clear that despair and depression had taken hold of this happy girl's heart.

At this point, I became angry with God and believed that, since I am a decent, kind, devout Catholic, there must be a flaw in God's system. "That's enough," I said, justifying my anger to Him, even reminding myself and God why I was "right." After all, the countless times I overlooked the Church employee who was rude and antagonistic to me when all I was doing was helping, the betrayal, the unexpected losses, and this and that. I wondered, why me, Lord? Not again, not another closed door! Here I am trying to be the best disciple, and this is my reward. But I did not realize that the pain and the "setbacks" were all a trap: an invitation to the beautiful sacrament of Penance.

I had always gone to confession regularly, but in the midst of my struggles to understand God's will, I had become guilty of my anger against "the one whom my soul loves."

So I did what most Catholics do when we are guilty: I went to confession, and then I went the next week, and then the next week...and again. I went for four weeks in a row. I had become addicted to His forgiveness. I longed for Reconciliation every week. Every Monday after Mass I anxiously waited in line to let Jesus forgive me again. And He did, no questions asked. My spirit was new, my peace restored. It's like going to a spiritual spa, but it's better!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 1422-24) offers an explanation of the sacrament of Penance, also known as the sacrament of Reconciliation, and of Conversion in article 4: "Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain from God's mercy forgiveness for the offense committed against him and, at the same time, are reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins and which, by charity, example and prayer, works for their conversion."

It is called the sacrament of Penance because it consecrates the personal and ecclesial steps of Conversion, Penance and satisfaction of the Christian sinner.

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God that reconciles: "Be reconciled to God". Whoever lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; be reconciled to your brother first".

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present the call of Jesus to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has been estranged by sin.

Whether we refer to this beautiful blessing as Confession or Reconciliation, let us remember to extend the same grace to others. After all, Jesus Christ forgave St. Peter, who denied him three times. St. Peter was filled with tears and redemption after the resurrection of the Lord. These tears are of joy, hope and forgiveness; the peace we receive from redemption comes from Him, not from the world.

We are all invited by Christ to the confessional, but what if we see this beautiful sacrament as obligatory and festive? The ramifications are fantastic. If we accept the blessing, let God restore the brokenness we feel and atone for our sins, weekly or monthly, our lives will be transformed and converted.

Many of us exercise daily and couldn't imagine missing our weight lifting sessions in aerobics class. We have to sweat out toxins and build muscle, which is smart. However, Confession is the only remedy to purify our souls and help us ascend higher on our spiritual path. And if we see Penance as an invitation from God to meet with Him in a special way and know that we will come out with stronger minds, bodies and souls, we would run to confession to our priests, even if it was for minor things. The consequence is that we would take communion with deeper reverence because, without this sacrament, we cannot receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord.

We live in a society that promotes therapy and juicing. While I enjoy the health benefits of healthy eating, I do not subscribe to therapy. I do not discount or ignore its value for many people; however, I believe that we Catholics must remember to let Jesus be our medicine and therapist.

Our beloved Padre Pio spent hours hearing confessions, and he had a simple but effective formula that he prescribed:

  1. Go to confession as much as possible.
  2. Attending Mass.
  3.  To be devoted to Our Blessed Mother.

Marion, who is a parishioner at Our Savior's Church in Manhattan, New York, and attends Mass every day, had this to say about the sacrament of Penance: "I like going to confession because I like talking to the priests, and I like telling them what I'm doing...and I repeat it [the sin] over and over again, but that's life, and nobody's perfect. And it makes me feel like I'm closer to God."

Even priests have their own experiences with the sacrament. Father Ali, a Nigerian Catholic priest, Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate (OMI), shared his reflections with Omnes:

"Confession has been a struggle for me for many years. Although I know that the Church expects me to confess my sins, I have always wondered why I cannot acknowledge them directly before God without the intervention of a priest. Why is it necessary to confess to a priest?"

"Changing my relationship with Confession was not easy, but I came to understand that sin is not so much an inability as a lack of reciprocity to God's love for me. Since then, I no longer go to Confession to accuse myself of my sins, but to rekindle my love for God. Because I love Him passionately, I am willing to do whatever it takes to maintain our love."

The late Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, once said, "I am an old-fashioned Catholic who sins, repents, struggles, worries, gets confused and, most of the time, feels better after confession."

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