Within the Catholic church, confession is likely the least appreciated sacrament. Why is that? We have an uncanny fear of confessing our sins aloud. This likely stems back to our youth. We often receive our first reconciliation as a very young child, and most can still remember the trepidation they felt. There is nothing more misunderstood within the church than this sacrament. How is it that so many regularly put off this gift bestowed on them instead of openly welcoming it?
The most likely reason is that we fear confronting the truth inside our hearts and minds. We know what we have done, and besides God, no one else is aware of the entire list of sins that we have committed. This is a frightening statement on its own. But, it doesn’t need to be scary. The problem is most Catholics look at this through the wrong lens.
The very thought of confessing sins aloud is tough because it isn’t natural. Asking for forgiveness is a difficult task. It requires a lot of thought and is often a long process. The individual who commits the offense needs to become mindful of his wrongdoing, and subsequently come to terms with it. Often, we do something wrong and may not even realize it. Once we accept what we’ve done, we now need to ask ourselves if we are actually sorry. Again, this can take time, and it still doesn’t take us to the last step. We may understand what we did, and feel sorry for our action, but the most overlooked thought is if we are contemplating committing the offense again, then why confess? Asking forgiveness when we are mindful that it won’t be the last time we do it is meaningless. There won’t be a genuine feeling of contriteness. For most Catholics, this is the problem. Why confess a sin to the priest if we don’t intend to stop committing the offenses? It’s pointless, right?
We’ve uncovered two problems with asking for forgiveness. Confessing sin is a difficult thing in the first place, and why confess if we aren’t convinced the sin will be repeated. Here’s the way to overcome these barriers. The truth will set you free. Why carry that weight around? It’s an unnecessary burden. Life is difficult enough to allow ourselves to be mentally bogged down by the reminder of our past offenses. Turn the corner. Examine what you have done, or failed to do, open up about it, and move forward.
The other part about confession that is being overlooked is the stigma or connotation surrounding it. Catholics avoid it because they treat it as a task or chore. It’s not looked at with its original intent. It is meant to be a gift. It’s a blessing. God is extending you grace, offering forgiveness for prior offenses, and sending you on your way renewed. We forget this. We dread the first step. This is everywhere. Not just confessing sins. Taking the first step in a lot of life’s daily tasks is not easy. This could be simple things like preparing dinner, or working out. It may be tasks at work like replying to emails or taking care of required training. But, you always feel relieved and refreshed when you complete these behaviors. You feel like you’ve accomplished something. This is how confession is intended to make Catholics feel. This feeling has been lost in translation.
Clean out your closet. Dig deep and ask yourself what you have done. Talk to God in silent prayer about places where you could have done more, or didn’t do anything at all. Make the mental list. Treat this like anything else. You have prepared ahead of time. Now, take the first step. Walk into church and confess these sins aloud. Realize how easy it is, and cherish how wonderful it makes you feel afterwards. Finally, close the book on some chapters in the story of your life that you no longer want to relive. Put these stories in front of God. He’ll take them off your hands and allow you to go forth feeling refreshed and forgiven. Embrace this. That’s the beautiful gift that is the sacrament of reconciliation.