I am writing this after going to a mandatory parents meeting of those children who are about to have their First Communion in May of 2011. Spane is going to have his First Communion in May of 2011, and also his first confession.
In the meeting I went to, Father talked about what the Sacrament of Penance (also known as Confession)is, and what it means. It is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace on the soul. For Catholics like me, this is a no-brainer. But, I want to address non-Catholics, or those Catholics who have not had this sacrament in a long time.
It’s a terrible thing, we all walk around carrying the baggage of our past. You do something that you didn’t like that you did, and you walk around with it. Everything you do is flavored with it, everyone you come in contact with has to experience that baggage as well. It’s like going on vacation, and instead of leaving your bags in the hotel, you take them on the tour with you. One little thing isn’t that heavy, but when you talk about years and years of accumulated “things”, those bags can get really, really heavy.
Well, the priest is kind of like the trash man. You give him your old, nasty baggage, and he takes them away. You walk out free!
Yes, you can tell your friend what’s bothering you, and your friend might be able to give you some advice. You can tell the person you might have hurt that you are sorry, and that person might even forgive you. You can even go to a therapist and tell the therapist what’s wrong. But that still won’t help you. Why? Although the therapist is under strict rules never to divulge the conversation, the therapist can never absolve you of your sin. You might feel better, but that is only on the surface. The stain of the sin is still deeply embedded in your soul, and there it will stay, unless a priest absolves you.
The confessional is a wonderful place to be. It is a place where there is no fear, it is completely safe. There is no one judging you, no one taking down every word to spread malicious gossip. You are safe to unburden your soul, relinquish the baggage you are carrying around with you.
Of course, this does not mean that you can go to confession, and just walk out nice and clean. It’s not a car wash. You have to truly be sorry for what you did, and you have to have the intention of not doing it again. In addition, you have to do something for God so He knows that you are sincere. That might be saying some prayers the priest recommends, doing a charitable act, etc.
For example, one time someone gave me too much change, and I knew about it, but I didn’t say anything – I needed the money. What I did may not seem that bad, but it’s actually violates the 7th Commandment – “You shall not steal" (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19). "Neither thieves, nor the greedy . . ., nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:10). When I confessed this, the priest suggested that I make a larger contribution to the collection box, or that I give something to a charity, which ever was my choice. Trust me, I’m very careful about people giving me change, and sometimes, if there is a donation bin at the counter, I’ll put my change into it.
Jesus came to Earth and died for us, and he gave his apostles the power to forgive sin. "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' (John 20:21-23). Priests, because they are descendants of the original apostles, can forgive sins. Your friend cannot, your therapist cannot. Only a priest can do this.
So, I say to you out there reading this, if you have not gone to confession, or have not gone in a long time, it is surely time to go. Unburden yourself, give up your baggage, and with God’s help, sin no more. If you get rid of the baggage, you will have room for other possibilities! Be free!