(From the St. Isidore Parish Stewardship series)
What is the most important thing about confession?
I would like to share a story I read in the Catholic Update written by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D. I'd love to quote it, but it would be too long.
A priest asked his congregation that same question. What is the most important thing about confession? The first response was to confess your sins. The second was to be contrite. The third was the examination of conscience. Finally, a child lifted her hand and said, "It's what Jesus does."
That is the most important thing and what we should focus on. What Jesus does is what makes us able to "celebrate" the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is also why we now call it "reconciliation" because "confession" is only a part of the sacrament, and not the most important part. Reconciliation is what Jesus does. As Fr. Richstatter states, "It is the gift of God's forgiveness and the removal of the barriers we place between ourselves, our community and our God."
In my years as a parish secretary, I can't tell you how often someone would confide in me their fear of going to confession because they had not been to church in 25 years (or more). My response was always the same. "My gosh, I can't think of anything that would make a priest's day more than to hear your confession. What an affirmation of his priesthood! He doesn't care what you've done, only that you're back. You are providing the priest with the opportunity to exemplify the father in the story of the prodigal son. All he is interested in is embracing you back into the Church."
I've always said the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sacrament I hate the most and love the most. It is hard to look in the mirror and see what others see. But it is such a wonderful gift of peace you receive from Jesus Christ in reconciliation. Why do I go to confession? To receive the gift of reconciliation. It is a gift offered to you. All you need do is ask.
TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR RECONCILIATION
1. Focus on what's important - what Jesus does.
2. Name it reconciliation - that means you've got to do more than confess. You've got to try to change.
3. Know what you want. Talking to a priest often works better outside the sacrament when the priest has special time for you. The sacrament is the proclamation of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
4. Don't use the sacrament as a substitute. Confessing "I beat my spouse" is not substitute for getting counseling.
5. Talk about sin, not guilt. Sin is not just about "breaking the rules." Sin is the failure to grow. Sin is our failure to respond to God's love through Jesus Christ.
6. If you're going to a communal reconciliation service, be particularly aware of the readings and the chosen prayers to help you define where your own sinfulness lies.
7. And finally, if you don't think you have anything to confess, just ask the person sitting next to you at church, at home, or at work or school. They'll be more than happy to clue you in!
From the "Did You Know" Parish Stewardship series, a collaboration of Fr. Manuel Soria and Monique Figlietti, Chair of Stewardship Ministry in response to a request from the Pastoral Council.