as a catholic priest, i am in the unique position at times to hear things that no one else would ever hear. things that people would not tell their spouse or closest friend are told to us.
there can be powerful moments of the Spirit within the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).
at it’s best, there is profound healing, grace, and peace in the sacrament. one can rediscover their faith and really know in their heart that they are loved by God without condition or limit.
but humanly speaking, confessions can be embarrassing, awkward, guilt/shame-filled.
at its best, we allow God’s action to be the center of the encounter. humanly speaking, we can focus too much on ourselves alone. most of the time, we are in the middle somewhere– we know that confession is good for us and our faith. we strive for self-improvement in the sacrament but can be too mired in our faults and failings.
for us priests, there can be extra special moments as we hear confessions. i am always pleasantly stunned when someone comes to the sacrament of reconciliation after many years. the longest time away from this sacrament that i have ever been told was 65 years! last night at st edward’s lenten confessions, there was a person who had been away for over twenty years. i compliment them on their courage for sitting in that chair across from me. i tell them that i am happy that they chose to be here.
in such circumstances, i highlight in a special way God’s unconditional love and desire for them to receive this love, healing and grace as pure gift. i remind them that no one can change the past so to leave our actions there. i invite them to rededicate themselves to the Lord in love and service. i mention that the Spirit will give them gifts like wisdom and strength to walk their journey of faith. for a penance, i invite them to think about the good things God has given them– especially a renewed faith– and then to give thanks for these blessings.
i remind them who they really are: a son or daughter of God. before they leave, i profoundly thank them for coming to the sacrament.
after they walk away, i sit back and realize how great God is through it all. and i am grateful to be part of that interchange of love.
i truly believe that “reconciliation” is a better name than “confession” for this special sacrament. confessing our sins is a necessary part of the encounter. but reconciliation offers other graces to us: lightness of being and celebration are just two.
when we get up out of that chair after the reconciliation and walk out, we can realize that we have a fresh start again with God and ourselves. there is a certain lightness of being who we are– with all of our shadows and weaknesses. we can continue to walk forward in life.
lastly, in reconciliation we celebrate God’s blessing in our lives and a joy that is only given by the Spirit.
this is so great and completely sums up reconciliation. I did this two weeks ago and felt all of these things, and it had been several years for me. It was a grand experience and I took the priests “penance” for me to heart. I felt SO much lighter afterward.
Wonderful! You are graced indeed