The Joy of Confession

Confession is a joyous occasion, not one of fear and anxiety. How did Jesus describe confession? First, let me say what confession is. It is when a person realizes he has sinned against God and that his sin has separated him from God. With genuine sorrow for having offended his heavenly Father, the only One who loves him perfectly and infinitely, he desires to be reconciled with Him, and so he humbly approaches God seeking forgiveness.

Jesus describes this as a joyous occasion. In Luke 10:7 & 10, He says this:
7 “I tell you…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

10 “I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

And we can’t forget the parable of the prodigal son. (Or should it be called the parable of the merciful father? Oh, wait. Spoilers.) This is where Jesus describes our heavenly Father’s reaction to our repentance.

If you recall, the younger son of two asks his father for his share of the inheritance, which in that time and culture is tantamount to saying “I wish you were dead,” not to mention that the inheritance normally goes to the oldest son, not to any younger ones, which means he really has no right to anything. However, his father loves him and gives him a share, and the son goes off and squanders it all away living it up. Then hard times arise, the son has nothing left, and he ends up hiring himself out to slop pigs. Another cultural note:  to Jews, pigs are unclean animals. He’s defiled himself by taking this job. He has little to eat and sees that the pigs have it better than he does. So he decides he will go home, tell his father he’s sinned against him and God, and ask to be hired as a servant.

Well, what happens? When the son approaches home, his father sees him in the distance, and runs out to greet him. His father is overjoyed! His son has come home! The son starts to say what he has rehearsed: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21) That’s all he had a chance to say. He admitted his sin, and BAM! all was instantly forgiven. In fact, his father had really forgiven him beforehand, he simply waited for his son to return. (This is repentance: turning away from sin and to God.)

Then we read the father’s instructions to his servants: “‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.”

So let’s boil it down: the son goes off and leads a sinful lifestyle. He regrets his sins. He goes home. Father is waiting for him and joyously welcomes him home, nary a word is said about what the son did; he is forgiven, and all is forgotten! Then they celebrated!

This is confession. Person sins. Person is genuinely sorry (a penitent). Person goes and confesses sins. BAM! He is forgiven. Heaven celebrates! This is why confession is a joyful occasion. Sure…we hardly like to admit to ourselves that what we’ve done is wrong much less go and actually tell someone else. But that is how we are reconciled to our heavenly Father who, as represented by the father in the parable, is keenly awaiting our return. You’re already forgiven. If you just come and seek the mercy of God, you will get it in abundance!

You might ask, why do I need to confess to a priest? Well, when Jesus built His Church on Peter and the apostles, that’s how he set it up. In John 20:21-23, Jesus tells His apostles He is sending them as the Father had sent Him. He breathes on them, telling them, “receive the Holy Spirit.” And then Jesus shares with these men whom He has ordained the power to forgive sins on God’s behalf, saying: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Well, how can the apostles forgive sins unless they know what they are? Unless they see the person is actually repentant? Simple. They hear the person confess his sins. But it’s not only the apostles that can forgive sins. That would mean Jesus’ Church is very limited, to only 12 men who died off in the first century. No, when the apostles traveled and set up local churches, they ordained bishops and priests. Jesus had empowered the apostles, and, by the laying on of hands, the apostles empowered (ordained) certain men with the same abilities, e.g. the power to forgive sins on God’s behalf. In this way, Jesus’ Church (with its mission of teaching, baptizing, mercy, and forgiveness) will continue until Jesus returns.

So, if you haven’t been to confession (a.k.a. the sacrament of reconciliation) in a long time, get the celebration in heaven started! Reflect. Find an “examination of conscience” online to help you. In all humility, realizing you’ve offended the One who created you and loves you and wants you to come home, go to your local parish, and confess. Don’t know where to go? Check MassTimes.org or your telephone book for Catholic parishes in or near your address or town.

God gave His Church the mission to reconcile sinners to Him. Make Jesus happy. Seek His unending mercy. There is no sin you’ve committed greater than the mercy of God. Never think that. God is greater than you are. He’s waiting for you. Go find one of His priests and get reconciled to Him.

An excerpt from Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians 5:17-20
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:  the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

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Are you a betrayer like Judas or Peter?

We have all betrayed our Lord at different times in our lives.  Some of us betray Him often; other people betray Him rarely.  But when you do sin, who do you emulate?  Judas or Peter?  Judas had deep regret for His betrayal, but what did he do?  Did he seek forgiveness?  Did he ask for mercy?  No, he went and committed suicide.  He received no forgiveness for his sin because he didn’t seek it.  God is merciful.  His ocean of mercy is greater than your sea of sin.

Now, Peter.  He denied Christ three times just as Jesus told him he would.  At the cock’s crow, Jesus looked at Peter.  Peter realized his betrayal and went and wept bitterly.  Theologians say he had a deeper conversion at that moment.  Peter was forgiven because he was open to it, unlike Judas.

So the question is, are you a betrayer like Judas or Peter?  Will you seek forgiveness and mercy while on your knees?  Or have you become distant and unbelieving of the mercy of our Lord?  Never think you cannot be forgiven.  No matter what your sin is, no matter how many times you’ve sinned, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve been to confession, you will ALWAYS be forgiven if you are truly repentant, if you truly regret your sin, if you truly mean to go and sin no more.

Jesus is called the “Divine Mercy” for a reason.  Because His mercy is endless if you only go to Him and throw yourself on the mercy of our Lord.  He loves you with a love you cannot even imagine, and His desire is that you be with Him in heaven at the end of your earthly life.  If you haven’t been to confession in a long time and are afraid to go, pray and ask for the courage.  The priest is always ready to receive you.  There’s really no need to be embarrassed or frightened or nervous, even though it is human nature.  Just go to your local priest, confess–if you don’t remember how, just ask, priests are more than willing to help you–and you will be absolved of all your sins.  Those words of absolution can make you cry.  It feels as if a great weight is lifted off your shoulders.  Freedom from the slavery of sin is an amazing thing.

You have betrayed our Lord.  Now be like Peter.  Then go and sin no more.