“The priest is not there as sheriff or judge but there to express God’s mercy.” – Fr. Bill
Our communal Lenten reconciliation service with individual confession and absolution will be Saturday, April 2 at 10:00 am. In preparation, I would like to repeat a series of bulletin articles I did for our Advent reconciliation service.
It is the Holy Spirit, who moves the follower of Christ, who has sinned, to come to the Sacrament of Penance. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we seek deeper and deeper conversion to God. This process of conversion through the Sacrament of Reconciliation has four elements: contrition, confessions, penance, and absolution.
Last week I reflected on contrition. This week, I focus on that second element: confession. This comes from true knowledge of self. Examining one’s actions, motives and circumstance is done in light of God’s mercy, confident that God wants to bring us greater freedom through the forgiveness of sin. Naming sin out loud lessens its power over us, for sin always likes to be kept secret where it can fester. Confession invites the penitent to open his or her heart to the minister of God, who is there to speak God’s mercy. Unfortunately, too many have experienced the confessional as a torture chamber rather than a hospital (as Pope Francis has lamented).
When a person names their sin to me, I am filled will compassion for their struggle as well as inspiration at their strength in naming that sin that tries to continue its hold on them. I also am attentive that it is the Holy Spirit, who probably led them to the Sacrament. God’s grace is at work when someone feels the need to celebrate this sacrament. I am humbled to be a part of this holy encounter. And, for some reason, I never seem to remember what a person has told me in confession. Still, some people are more comfortable going to confession at a neighboring parish rather than to their own pastor. The Church applies its harshest penalty of excommunication to a priest who ever reveals what is said in the confessional. The priest is not there as sheriff or judge but there to express God’s mercy.
In the past, the parish’s Advent and Lent Reconciliation Services did not include individual confession to a priest. The archbishop did not grant me the necessary permission to continue that custom. However, I hope you will experience this element of confession as a freeing and liberating prayer and the pathway of receiving the abundance of God’s mercy.