“I am more generous toward sinners than toward the just ..
let them not fear to approach Me – they are most in need of My mercy”
Diary of Saint Faustina, para.1275
For Catholics, one of the greatest joys we have is the ability to approach the Sacrament of Penance as often as we need to. No matter how scarlet our sins, no matter how much or how often we sin, the Lord awaits us in the Confessional “not seventy times, but seventy times seven”. All that is required is that we be truly sorry for our sins and that we trust in the mercy of God, dispensed to us through the ministry of the Priest in the name of the Church. How beautiful and wondrous a sacrament!
I can only image what the experience of Confession must be like for the Priest. What horrors and darkness is revealed to him there in the Confessional – and yet, no matter the depth of the misery of the soul, nothing is too much for the great mercy of the Lord. What joy that must bring to the Priest, through whom the Merciful Lord acts upon and within the soul of the penitent.
Over the years, I have read several testimonies written by people who knew their need of Confession but who had often been away from the Sacramental life of the Church for a long time – even for many decades. There were two common themes in all those testimonies – the gentleness of the Priest, and the sheer joy upon having sins forgiven and leaving the Confessional afterward, as though an enormous weight had been lifted from the soul. Such accounts are deeply moving and inspiring – but more importantly, they express a profound truth about the effects of this sacrament. Indeed, the Catechism comments on precisely this –
“The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship. Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation ‘is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation’. Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true ‘spiritual resurrection’, restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1468)
It is a great and privileged grace to return to that friendship with God (and community) described in the Catechism; it is one we should treasure enormously and never take for granted, for we don’t know when the Lord will call us from this life.
Today, perhaps it would be a good thing to remember in our prayers all those who are in need of this Sacrament but who, for whatever reason, do not approach it. Let us the ask the Lord to grant to those hearts the desire to return to Him and the grace to do so with confidence.