Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
During this month of December, the month dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the Infancy of Jesus, let us pray for the grace our hearts need to be prepared for the gifts of Grace our Lord wills to give each of us! This Sunday we celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Advent. I share with you a reflection on the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“Our Sins and Confession - Confession of our sins and purpose of amendment. It must be complete, individual and to a priest: A voice cries: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. (Is. 40:3-4)
The best way of getting our souls ready to receive Our Lord at His coming is to make a really well-prepared Confession. This Sacrament is a source of Grace and Mercy throughout our entire life, but its necessity is especially obvious in this season, when through her liturgy the Church urges and encourages us to prepare to commemorate the Birth of Our Lord at Christmas.
She puts on our lips the prayerful petition: O God, You sent Your Son into the world to free the human race from its former sinfulness. As we faithfully wait for His coming, fill our hearts with Your grace so that we may live in true freedom and attain its reward. (Prayer, Holy Mass for Saturday of the First Week in Advent)
Confession is also the Sacrament which, together with the Holy Eucharist, prepares us for that all-important meeting with Christ at the end of our earthly life. Our whole life is, in this sense, a continual Advent, a preparation for that final moment for which we are unceasingly, day by day, getting ourselves ready. How comforting it is to realize that it is this same Lord Who ardently desires to have us with Him in the new Heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1) which He has prepared for us.
Every well-made Confession is an impulse which Our Lord gives us to go ahead, freed from our miseries, with new courage and joy. Christ says to us once more: Take heart, your sins are forgiven (Matt. 9:2) my child, begin again… It is He Himself Who forgives us when we have humbly told Him our faults. We confess our sins to God Himself, although in the confessional it is a man - the priest - who listens to us. That man is the humble and faithful servant of this great mystery which has been enacted between the son who returns and the Father. (St. John Paul II, Homily at the Parish of St. Ignatius, Rome, 16 March 1980)
The causes of evil are not to be found outside man, but above all, in the depth of his heart. Its cure also comes from the heart. Consequently Christians must rebel against the debasing of man, through a sincere determination to be truly converted themselves, and must show forth in their own lives the joy of being truly freed from sin… by means of their sincere repentance, their firm resolution of amendment and the courageous confession of their faults. (St. John Paul II, Homily, 5 April 1979)
For those who have fallen into mortal sin after they have been baptized, this Sacrament of Penance is as necessary for their salvation as is Baptism for those who have not yet been re-born into Supernatural Life: It is the means to satisfy man with the righteousness that comes from the Redeemer Himself. (St. John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 20) And the Church holds its importance to be so great that lack of time may oblige priests to postpone or even to omit other activities, but never that of hearing Confessions. (idem., Rome, 17 Nov.1978)
All mortal sins committed after Baptism, together with any circumstances which may affect their nature, must be brought to the tribunal of Penance in an individual confession made privately to a priest, followed by individual absolution.
The Holy Father asks us all to do everything that we can to help the ecclesial community to appreciate fully ‘the value of individual Confession’ as a personal encounter with the merciful and loving Savior, and to be faithful to the directives of the Church in a matter of such importance. (St. John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Japan, Tokyo, 23 February 1981)
We cannot forget that conversion is a particularly profound inward act in which the individual cannot be replaced by others and cannot make the community be a substitute for him. (St. John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 20)
Confession is to Our Lord Himself; frequent Confession: As well as being complete in regard to serious sins, Confession must be Supernatural: we have to remember that we are coming to implore forgiveness from the same Lord Whom we have offended, because all sins, including those committed against our fellow man, are direct offenses against God.
A confession made with consciousness of its supernatural nature is a real act of Love for God. In the depth of our soul we hear Christ say, as He said to Peter: Simon, son of John, do you love Me? And we too can answer, in the very words of the Apostle, Domine, tu omnia nosti, tu scis quia amo te. (John 21:17) ‘Lord, You know every-thing, You know that I love You’… in spite of everything.
Next to mortal sin, venial sin is the soul’s greatest misery, because it prevents us from receiving many actual Graces. Each small unfaith-fulness is the loss of a great treasure: it decreases the warmth of our love; it increases our difficulty in practicing the virtues, which seem harder and harder all the time. And it makes it easier for us to end up committing mortal sin, unless we react promptly.
Our greatest help in the struggle to avoid venial sins comes from Holy Communion and frequent Confession. What is more, in Confession we are given special Graces to avoid precisely those defects and sins which we have confessed and repented. To value frequent Confession is a sign of spiritual refinement and Love of God. To despise it or to be indifferent to it suggests inward coarseness and frequently a real blindness to supernatural realities.
How often we should go to Confession depends on the needs of each individual soul. Anyone who is seriously determined to fulfil the Will of God in everything and to belong entirely to God will feel a real need to come to this Sacrament more often and more regularly: Confession periodically renewed - the Confession of ‘devotion’ - has always accompanied the ascent to holiness in the Church. (St. John Paul II, Address to Members of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, 30 January 1981)
Each Confession benefits the whole Church. The Communion of Saints and the Sacrament of Penance: In the Sacrament of Penance man is reconciled with God and with the Church. It is one of the most intimate and personal of human acts, and brings about many fundamental changes in the sanctuary of each man’s conscience. Yet at the same time this Sacrament also possesses a deep and inseparable social dimension and also brings about many changes in the family circle, the studies, the work, the friendly relationships etc., of the person who goes to Confession.
The greatest tragedy in any man’s life is sin, because the result of sin is a far-reaching disorder which starts in the very center of his being and spreads outward to affect all those around him. In the Sacrament of Penance Our Lord sorts out all those misplaced elements; in addition to pardoning the sins, He restores to the soul its lost order and harmony.
A well-made confession brings much good to all those who live and work with us. What is more, it is of benefit to very many other people with whom we come into contact in the course of the day. The Grace that we receive in this Sacrament means that we say and do everything in a very different way.
Not only that, but when a Christian goes to Confession, the whole Church receives an incalculable benefit. Every time a priest pronounces the words of absolution, She rejoices and is mysteriously enriched, because every Confession, through the Communion of Saints, sends blessings which resound through the whole Mystical Body of Christ.
In the intimate life of the Church - whose cornerstone is Christ - every member supports all the others with his good works and merits, and is at the same time supported by them. We all need to be, and in fact we all are, continually receiving a share of the spiritual benefits which are common to us all. Our own merits are helping our fellow men in every part of the world. In the same way sin, lukewarmness, venial sins and self-satisfied mediocrity weigh down every member of the pilgrim Church; If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:26)
This is the other aspect of that solidarity which, on the religious level, is developed in the profound and magnificent mystery of the
‘Communion of Saints’, thanks to which it has been possible to say that ‘every soul that rises above itself raises up the world’. To this ‘law of ascent’ there unfortunately corresponds the ‘law of descent’.
Consequently one can speak of a ‘communion of sin’, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the Church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and on the whole human family. (St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 2 December 1984, 16)
Whenever anybody makes a sincere and repentant Confession it is a moment of rejoicing not only for the penitent but for everybody. When she has found the lost coin, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me. (Luke 15:9) The Saints in Heaven, the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and the Church which is still on pilgrimage through this world rejoice together every time an absolution is given.
‘To loosen’ the chains of sin is at the same time to tighten the bonds of brotherhood. Ought we not to go to this Sacrament more joyfully and more regularly when we know that by the very fact of making a good Confession we are helping so many other Christians, and especially those who are closest to us?
Let us ask God, in the words of the Church: Listen favorably, Lord, to our prayers and help us in our need. The coming of Your Son brings us comfort: grant that we may be freed from the taint of our old habits of sin. (Prayer, Holy Mass for Tuesday of the First Week in Advent)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Paul, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord at Christmas!
In Christ through Mary,