The Sacrament of Penance is a wonderful Sacrament of God’s abiding mercy. Some people view it negatively. Some feel uncomfortable. If they only knew the comfort that Jesus brings in Confession.
We should never look at this Sacrament puritanically. It is not a put down. Rather, it is a time of healing. It is a restoration to full health. Sin causes each of us harm. First, it weakens our relationship with God in the case of venial sin. In the case of mortal or serious sin, it destroys our relationship with Him. That is the greatest harm. But, there are also the accompanying detrimental effects. Depending upon the particular sins, we become increasingly selfish, greedy, impure, mendacious, disrespectful, lazy, etc. This is only a partial list. It all leads to unhappiness.
So, what do we do about it? Well, one can bury his or her head in the sand and try to ignore personal sins. One can get into a habit of not admitting wrong doing. There is such a thing as becoming inured to sin. Then, one becomes blind to shallowness, to sadness, to heaviness of heart, and other ramifications.
One can make excuses for one of more of his sins. But, that doesn’t make it go away. One’s relationship with God is not restored; there is a lack of integrity and wholeness in his soul. There is something gnawing beneath the surface. Something is just not right.
A person can pretend that God has forgiven him without having gone to Confession. But, isn’t this too easy. So, easy in fact that it leads to compliance with more and more sins because, after all, I only have to say that I am forgiven. I become the minister of my own absolution, ignoring Our Lord’s institution of this Sacrament. Jesus said to his Apostles “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
The right thing to do is to go to Confession, and to go on a regular basis. In the person of his priest, Jesus forgives the sins confessed, no matter what they are and how many times they were committed. This is true as long as it is a good confession, that is, complete (not holding back any sins), honest, and contrite (with sorrow and a purpose of amending ones life). Now, is one’s relationship with God made whole and one’s soul is healed. There is now real joy in the penitent’s heart.
Let us make good confessions not just now in Advent and then during Lent, but let’s make them often. Frequent Confession is the way to true sanctity of life—to authentic happiness.