Confession is about the Future by Fr. John Harris
Catholics are Guilt Ridden
It is often said that we Catholics are guilt-ridden. It is said that the Church is obsessed with sex and most of this criticism is particularly focused on the Sacrament of Confession. People say that Confession is about raking-up the past and being stuck in one’s shame. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Secular Media Smearing People
It is the secular media and the spirit of the age that is obsessed with sex. The media can’t get enough bad news by raking-up politicians’ and celebrities’ past sins. The tabloid press has brought this investigative journalism to a new low. Photographers follow famous people around the world hoping to get pictures of them in compromising positions. People are never allowed to forget their feet of clay. There is no forgiveness, for one knows not the day nor the hour when someone will root out something you said or did in the past.
The Accuser of the Brethren
One of the titles of the devil in the New Testament is “the accuser of the brethren”. The devil is the one who accuses us of our past sins and never lets us forget them. His power is limited to being able to accuse us of them and remind us of them. He is powerless to help us deal with the sins of the past. The devil is the great operator of guilt-trips. The only way the devil has of dealing with sins, besides accusing us of them, is to say that everyone else is as bad as we are.
I came to give you life
None of this has anything to do with Christ and His Church. Christ came to set us free from the past and to give us His life. Jesus says in the Gospel of St. John, “I came that you may have life and have it to the full”. (John 10:10) Our Blessed Lord is only interested in the past to set us free from it. The Good News is about us being free of sin, not wallowing in it.
Ask Your Nosey Neighbour
An incident related in the Gospels describes how Jesus went to dinner one evening in the house of a Pharisee. A woman, a local sinner, came and cried at the feet of Jesus and He did not turn her away. The Pharisee complained that “if this Jesus was a truly holy man, he would know what kind of woman she is”. For Jesus to know that she was a sinner, all he had to do was ask a nosey neighbour. It was precisely because He is the Holy One of God that Jesus can see beyond the sin to the renewed life of grace that is open to everyone who comes to him in humility.
I Myself Am Waiting For You
It is because God is so good that He can show such wonderful mercy to us. Only God has the freedom to see beyond sin to peace and mercy. In the Diary, Jesus speaks beautifully to St. Faustina about confession. In the Diary (1602) Jesus calls confession “this fountain of My mercy”. He says to St. Faustina, “Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls”.
Leaving Our Sins Behind
One preacher I heard compared a penitent coming into confession to a slave weighed down with chains. The heavy weight of sin, selfishness, weakness and the mistakes of the past are a heavy burden for anyone to carry. Once the penitent confesses the sin with sorrow in all humility then the Lord comes and cuts the chains away and the forgiven soul is free to fly out of the confessional box. You are no longer in a cage made by your past and your sinfulness but free to fly with the freedom of the children of God. In confession you tell your sins, in order to leave them behind not to be reminded so you can keep carrying them.
The First Sacrament Given By the Risen Lord
The sacrament was given to the Church by Jesus Himself on the night of the Resurrection. On that first Easter night, Jesus said to the Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit, whatever sins you forgive they are forgiven”. This sacrament is the first sacrament given to the Church by the Risen Lord. This is the first way we begin to live the new life of Christ, by having our sins of the past forgiven and receiving the freedom to walk into the future.
Grace for our Personal Journey
The Sacrament of Confession is the one place in the whole world you know you are loved. No matter what you have done or said, no matter how bad things are, the Lord is there loving you. It is a personal love. One theologian said that the particular grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that it is tailor-made. It is the grace you need on your personal journey. That is why personal confession is so necessary. “I am not loved in a group, but personally by God.” He takes my struggles seriously. He wants to help me to be free.
We Can’t Change the Past
None of us can carry the burden of our sins, we can’t change the past. None of us can wipe the past clean. The great joy is to know that we don’t have to. Christ Jesus has done it for us. In Christ we are relieved of this burden. Jesus carried the weight of all our sins when He carried the Cross. He has done it for us. He died to set us free. All we have to do is ask for his mercy and accept his new life.
Go to Confession Regularly
In his letter to the Irish Church Pope Benedict XVI encouraged us “to discover anew the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace”. This wonderful sacrament is about your future not about your past. Learn to walk in the freedom of your future and not to be enslaved by the sins of the past. Go to confession regularly.