Good morning friends, welcome to our February 2019 Ottawa winter wonderland. I hope this post finds many of you somewhere warm. Today I want to give you some of MJ’s “food for thought” on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. Don’t stop reading, this is good stuff !
Brandon Vogt describes the Catholic Church as “Extreme Demand, Extreme Mercy”. Let me explain.
This phrase describes well the church’s strong moral demands. The church’s standards sets the bar high. If we ask most people in the street what’s the goal of life, most will likely say something like “to be a good person”. Well, Catholicism wants more for us. Catholicism’s goal is not to create good people who are morally mediocre. It aims to accomplish Jesus’ own goal for us “to be perfect just as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. (Mt 5:48).
The church wants perfection for us. This is why the church refuses to say “well as long as you are faithful to your spouse most of the time, that’s fine”, or “it’s ok to lie one or two times, just not too often”. No, the church demands that we strive for the moral ideal, whether we attain it in this life or the next.
That may sound harsh or impossible but that’s precisely why Confession is so needed. Our God and Jesus are the ultimate psychologists. They say, “these people are going to mess things up from time to time, we’ve got to give them an outlet so they can get things off their chests, so they can repent and start fresh to try harder”. Confession. There’s genius in Catholicism !
Coupled with these extreme moral demands is the church’s equally extreme mercy. No matter how many times we fall short or miss the mark, the Catholic Church is always ready to offer God’s forgiveness and pick us up so we can try again.
God wants us to ask Him for forgiveness often and anytime through private prayer, but going to Confession fortifies us with a special grace that we cannot get from just asking for forgiveness through private prayer. We need to make that effort to go, for that is a sign to Jesus of a penitent heart. Jesus set it up this way in His time 2000 years ago, where His disciples (now priests) were the ones who could grant forgiveness and absolution before God. (Jn 20: 19-24).
We must stop for a moment and consider each of our own lives. Have you done something bad, maybe years ago that you still drag along? Something that still haunts you and makes you feel guilty? Maybe you betrayed a friend or spouse or hurt someone in serious ways. Perhaps you lived selfishly or used people for your own gain. Whatever the case, the church wants to free you from that guilt. It’s the only place to find true and complete healing before God.
You can ignore your mistakes and pretend they never happened. But most of us have tried that. It doesn’t work – at best it’s a temporary strategy. No matter how much we repress our guilt, it always returns, stronger and more oppressive.
You may also try to lower your moral standards and justify, or pretend the wrong things you’ve done weren’t really so bad and that in the end, you really are basically a pretty good person. What you need is to stop playing those games. You need the one real antidote to sin, the one way to vanquish your guilt and the one chance to make amends before God and receive real and everlasting forgiveness. You need the extreme mercy found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession.
As you enter the Confessional with an attitude of sincere repentance, after confessing serious sins, the priest can then counsel and assign you a penance. If he senses genuine sorrow and repentance he will say ” I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. And your sins before God will be wiped away. Period.
As a regular participant in the Confessional myself, since having began this Journey of Hope ministry, I have joyfully seen many people who stayed away from Confession for decades, return to the sacrament.
One special priest has said that when a person walks into the Confessional and says “Father, it’s been 20 years since I’ve been to Confession”, or “I’m about to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone before”, he delights in the joy and weight of relief that is about to be bestowed upon this individual as he speaks those words of mercy and absolution before God. “I absolve you from your sins”. They leave walking on clouds and often in tears. Their lives are never the same again.
Whether you are not Catholic and have never been to Confession or perhaps you are a former Catholic who hasn’t been in years, stop searching for false solutions and experience the objective relief that only this encounter can provide.
The Catholic Church is not an evil force out to condemn the world. It’s a beacon of mercy, offering pardon and peace even to the worst failures among us all. If this isn’t the ultimate goodness, I don’t know what is.
So for this month, perhaps ask the Lord and Holy Spirit in prayer if they can give you the strength to step forward to experience this wonderful sacrament. This is MJ’s February “food for thought” for you all. Hang in there friends, March is around the corner. Many warm blessings for this month, MJ. xo