It might seem strange to you to admit how much I enjoy hearing confessions. It’s not that I take any delight in hearing the bad things we human beings sometimes do. To be honest, nothing I’ve heard in the confessional surprises me anymore. It’s just called the human condition.
I have a variety of reactions when I hear confessions. I feel blessed that a person who barely knows me will open up his or her soul to me. Who am I to have such a privileged glance into the very heart of a human being? There are no masks and no excuses. People are amazingly honest and reflective in this sacramental encounter.
Another reaction I have is that I’m no different than the person confessing sins. So often I just nod my head because I’m guilty of the same things, too. I feel a closeness to the penitent because it dawns on me that we are all in this thing called “life” together. No one said that it’s easy to be a human being or to live an authentic Christian life.
Finally, I simply I feel love and compassion for the person, much like Christ must have felt whenever he forgave people their sins. You see a person in his or her original innocence and goodness. You catch a glimpse of how God looks at each human being with so much understanding and tenderness.
And believe it or not, I quickly forget what people confess. Maybe having a poor memory is a good thing for a confessor!
I can witness to the fact that the sacrament of confession is a great spiritual release. It heals and lightens the human soul. Confession is transformative. It’s ironic to read what Bill W., one of the founders of A.A., said about Step 5. Step 5 of A.A. reads, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Bill W. said that it was the most Catholic of all the 12 steps, but that Catholics themselves no longer believe in it. Yet until we can take this step, we often don’t find much inner healing or growth in life.
St. John Chrysostom wrote, “After confession, a crown is given to penitents.” We are offering confessions each Friday of Lent at 5 p.m., each Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and at our Lenten Penance Service on Wednesday, April 10, at 7 p.m. So come and get your crown!
Yours in Christ,