For a few weeks now, every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30pm, a priest has been in church waiting to be the instrument of reconciliation between God and the human person. This Wednesday is the last one (April 3)! Every Saturday, a priest is present, both after the 9am Mass and at 4pm in the afternoon, to be that instrument of healing and forgiveness.
As a part of sacramental formation in PREP (that’s, Parish Religious Education Program - used to be RE “religious education” and way back when we called it CCD!) children are asked to present themselves for Confession once or twice a year. Each Lent, we make a point to offer Reconciliation to all the OLPH school children. These moments are important catechetical training for sacramental life as adults. Hopefully, the experience makes the children familiar with the process and helps to create a holy habit.
What surprises, however, is how seldom an adult or guardian also enters to receive the sacrament. Annual Confession is still one of the precepts of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church nn.2041-2043):
1. Attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation, and rest from servile labor.
2. Confess your sins at least once a year.
3. Receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
4. Observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
5. Help provide for the needs of the Church.
These precepts are the bare minimum to be considered a Catholic in good standing. #2 and #3 go together: confess and then receive, at least once a year. We should not present ourselves for Communion if conscious of serious sin.
I encourage everyone to present ourselves for Reconciliation every season: winter, spring, summer and fall. Approaching the Sacrament with greater frequency heals and strengthens the soul to grow in God’s grace. It also helps us to know and acknowledge our sins better.
In the well-known Gospel today (Lk 15), we hear the younger son rehearsing his confession: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” We might even question his genuine contrition. But our hearts swell and warm when we recognize that the Father has been long awaiting these words, even if they are perhaps not whole-hearted. The Father has been vigilant, awaiting the return of his lost son, and he runs to him, embraces him and kisses him. Welcome home! Even before the son can speak his whole confession, the Father restores the young man to his status as son: “Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet...this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”
Honest soul-searching reveals that we have all been there. We have all been lost. The reality of our decadence, or selfishness, or dissipation takes many forms. We have not made the most of every moment the Lord has given us, at least I haven’t.
Our Father awaits our return. He keeps vigil for us to return home and live in accord with our true and glorious dignity as adopted children of God! So what might prevent us from taking advantage of this wondrous opportunity to begin again with the Lord? Be not afraid. Hide not your sins but bring them to the light where God’s grace can heal and restore. Now is the time to be reconciled to God Who is Love, through the poor sinful instrument of His priests.
Be courageous and be reconciled!