What a wonderful penance service tonight at St. Charles. I didn’t expect it to be nearly as packed. There were about ten priests there hearing confessions. There were many still in line when I left at 8:30!! (It started at 7.)
I’ve changed my mind about a comment I made earlier when I said I enjoy Lent more than I should. Though oftentimes we don’t call it a time of joy, it is a time for just that. Why? It’s a time of shedding that which keeps up from God, (see my post about the serpent from yesterday.), especially sin.
But one reason I think it is such a time of joy is because of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s no coincidence that Holy Mother Church focuses on this sacrament during Lent.
The Catechism teaches us much about this sacrament by telling us the different names for it:
I. WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED?
1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”6
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.”7 He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”
Given all this, why do people stay away from it so long!!?!? Forget that we are bound to go at least once a year and after every mortal sin before receiving Holy Communion. Even without these “rules”, why would anyone want to stay away?
You see, the sacrament leaves (or at least ought to) people with a sense of joy. I was watching people as I stood in line, and so many emerged from the sacrament smiling, and some crying tears of joy.
Why all this joy? We know that we have been forgiven, that the cycles of sin have been broken, and we have proof that God loves us still–so much that he offers us so very sinful people the gift of mercy.
Most of all, it’s that profound feeling of knowing that you’re reconciled with God and the Church. What a stronger Church we are now, during these months, when so many of those people who take part in the sacrament only once a year, take part–along with those who are more frequent goers.
The sacrament strengthens us to start anew!