Saturday, January 19, 2013

Confession: A New Beginning in Grace

Last week I wrote about the sacrament of Reconciliation, and how great a gift it is for anyone who wants to live a faithful Christian life. I recently revised that post a bit; you can click on the title to see some new reflections woven in with the old: (Confession: Encountering The Mercy of Jesus). I also thought it would be worth reflecting on that more radical effect of this sacrament: the forgiveness of serious sins and a new beginning in grace brought about by the mercy of God. This is neither a treatise nor even an exhaustive reflection. Its a blog post. Here are my thoughts:

We think of confession primarily as the sacrament that restores the life of grace to baptized Catholics who have lost it through the spiritual death of serious sin (i.e. mortal sin). And this is indeed true. How many of us have wept with gratitude when being reconciled to God after foolishly abandoning Him in pursuit of something that seemed so good, but turned out to be false, bitter, and empty. We abandoned God's love for our own folly or pride or self-indulgence. But God never stops loving us, and He calls us to come and let our hearts be filled with His love once more.

There are so many people of recent generations who were born and baptized Catholic, but lacked the catechesis that forms the eyes, the mind and the heart to recognize Christ in the Church as the real truth of life. So they went their own ways (sometimes for many years), and eventually found themselves cheated by the false promises of sin, and trapped in an ugly and self-destructive life.

For long lost "cradle" Catholics (and other baptized Christians who run from Christ and travel many roads, but in the end find their way to the fullness of Catholic faith), the sacrament of Reconciliation is the place where they find God's mercy, and where they can leave their heavy burdens. The sacrament of Reconciliation is the open arms of a father who has never ceased seeking and longing for his child to return home.

Herein lies its magnificent testimony to God's inexhaustible mercy and love given by Christ through the Church. We can do more than just beg for God's mercy in private prayer (although we should do this also, so that the Spirit will lead us). We can go to a place, and receive that mercy now.

Many of course fear that they cannot leave behind their sinful habits. They know that their struggles have only led to failure. The problem is that they are struggling by themselves.

Go to confession and let Christ take on the struggle with you and in you. Trust in Him. It may take time and you may fall again. Go back again. You are not alone. You have a home now. Let the priest guide you. God does not "run out" of mercy. Through the grace of the sacrament, Jesus will forge an new freedom in you.

Go to confession today. Go during the time when confessions are offered. It can be a very simple thing. Or else, call a Catholic church and arrange to see a priest. He is but a poor instrument of Christ, but he is a guarantee that Christ is here for you, right now. Let Jesus love you. Come home.

I have known in my own life the beauty and the peace of "coming home." I'm far from perfect (see the previous post), but I know where to find Jesus. I know that I need Him. I know that nothing in this world can compare to the embrace of His mercy.