Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to Return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is where your friendship with God is repaired, your soul is cleansed, and your mind is freed from a guilty conscious.

Do you know the parable of the disobedient son and his all-compassionate father (Luke 15:11-32)? The parable is really about God the Father and His endless love for wayward humanity! Whatever wrong we may do, God is ready to have compassion on us, embrace us, and kiss us when we repent! Jesus tells us about the happiness our repentance causes: "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

1. Prepare your conscience

"And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice" (2 Kings 19:11-12).

Despite modern culture's obsession with Armageddon, God does not need to send earthquakes, plagues, and other disasters to inform us of our sins. In our conscience -- that "small voice" -- we can hear God speaking to us His commandments. When we do wrong, our conscience will alert us.

Take time to recall your sins. Here is as excellent list of questions to ask yourself.

Do you have a mountain's worth of sin to confess? No worries. If you think that you'll have trouble confessing it all when it matters (i.e., in the confessional), then write them down on paper -- but don't forget to destroy the paper afterwards!

Take what you remember to confession. When are confessions heard? Usually on Saturdays 4PM - 5 PM and anytime by appointment. You can also find your church's confessional schedule at MassTimes.org.

2. Attend the Sacrament

By the will and pleasure of Christ, Christ gave His Church the power to forgive sins: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:23). Therefore, the priest has the power to forgive sins. Be prepared to take joy in his words: "Take heart, my son (or daughter); your sins are forgiven" (Matt 9:2).

Here are the steps to a good confession:
  1. Be sorry for your sins.
  2. When the confession starts, make the Sign of the Cross with the priest.
  3. The priest may welcome you. If he does, wait until he is finished. 
  4. Tell him how long it has been since your last confession: "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (amount of weeks/months/years) since my last confession."
  5. State your sins.
  6. You will then be told your penance and to make a good Act of Contrition:
    "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
    and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments,
    but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
    Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.
    I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
    to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.
    Amen."
  7. After the absolution, say, "Thank you, Father." Giving thanks is one of the best and simplest forms of prayer around! One time, Jesus healed ten people, but only one came back to thank Him. Jesus asked that one thankful person, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks to God except this one?" (Luke 17:17-18).

3. Do the Penance

Now that your sins have been forgiven, do the penance assigned to you. Penance heals the wounds caused by sin and will strengthen you from sinning again. Penance is usually prayer, but it could also be donating to the poor, returning stolen goods, saying sorry to those you hurt, doing an act of charity, etc. Whatever the penance is, it is good for you.

4. Be joyful

Now that your sins are forgiven, let go of them from your conscience. The purpose of guilt is to bring a soul to repentance; a soul without sin has no use for guilty feelings. As many saints have noted, feeling guilty after forgiveness is a trick from our invisible spiritual enemies.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ‘NO FISHING ALLOWED.’” Well, here's my best attempt to find that scripture:
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot out guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old (Micah 7:18-20).