Recently, I have been touching on the seven gifts given to the Church by our Divine Lord. We collectively call them the sacraments. They are specific points where the power of Jesus reaches us and draw us to himself and thus into intimate union with our Heavenly Father.
I have already talked about baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist and Holy Orders. I would like to say a few brief words about a truly wonderful gift that in post-Vatican II terminology is referred as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We also call it the Sacrament of Penance and folks on the street just call it “confession.”
Reconciliation, however, is a much better term because it actually tells us what is accomplished through this spiritual act of humility. In baptism, we were made the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth. With confirmation, we make a commitment to walk faithfully in our Lord’s footsteps. With the Eucharist, we draw the necessary spiritual sustenance day by day as we walk with our divine guide. That is really wonderful.
BUT – we occasionally make mistakes.
When I say “mistakes” I am, of course, referring to the failure that we term as a sin. We instinctively know right from wrong. For most of us our conscience is a very good barometer of how to evaluate right from wrong. God has given us free will and we are all capable of misusing it. When we misuse free will and deliberately do things that are offensive to God’s directions, we are guilty of sin and, depending on the gravity of the sin to a certain extent we separate ourselves for our Lord’s presence and love.
But not to worry. Our Lord told the apostles on the night of the Resurrection, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiveness. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Thus was launched this great Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Let me approach it from a very human perspective that we have all experienced. Have you ever had a really bitter fight in the family? Have you ever been very hurt and struck back with anger and vengeance? We sometimes attack the people around us very hard but we are usually conscious of the fact that most of the pain is on our side and in our hearts. We have damaged our friendship. Then, for one reason or another, either because we have a better insight or these people are so generous that they approach us, we look up, see that we have done wrong, reach out, embrace our friend and say with absolute sincerity, “I’m sorry. I am very sorry.”
You have experienced that and wasn’t it a wonderful feeling? Separation and anger inflicts suffering. Humility and forgiveness bring joy. What a wonderful thing it is to know that no matter what we do that is wrong, no matter what sin or failure of which we are guilty, our Lord INSTANTLY forgives us when we say we are sorry!
Let’s approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation with greater appreciation.
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