Last night I attended a parent meeting to prepare my youngest son for his first reconciliation. It was an enlightening evening. The priest was answering questions the parents have about the sacrament. One of the questions that intrigued most of the parents was, “Why do I have to go to a priest and confess my sins if I have a good relationship with God? Can’t I just confess my sins to God?” The priest noted that he was impressed that the person has a great relationship with God and that we should always confess our sins to God in our prayers. However, he said, “Reconciliation allows us to own our sins.” When we own our sins they become our responsibility. It becomes our responsibility to change that behavior in our lives for the better. He went on to say, “Penance is not a punishment but a challenge to help one overcome and move passed that sin.” Confessing our sins to a priest is allowing our hearts and minds to be open to a way to repair the damaged relationship with ourselves, God, and others. We should take the penance and allow it help us to grow closer to God.
He was also asked, “Do you remember the sins of the confessor? Do you look at them differently because of those sins?” The priest responded, “Honestly, I am there to listen to your sins, to comfort you, give you penance and help you change that behavior, but more than anything I am there to give you God’s mercy. I do not try to remember any of the sins or who confessed them.”
Reconciliation is truly a human process that I believe has such psychological benefits. We have to own our bad behavior by confessing it to another person. We have to listen to an objective person’s perspective of it. We have to then talk about how we can change our hearts. We receive forgiveness from another person (and God) and forgive ourselves. We are absolved and take that feeling along with the new ideas of how we can live a more virtuous life out into the real world. It has lots of similarities to counseling.
Reconciliation causes anxiety and fear for many of us. However, if we get to the true focus of the sacrament what we will find is healing, of our hearts, relationships, and lives. Consider going to Reconciliation this Lent to turn your lives back towards God and loving others, (including yourself), once more.