Luke 3:1-6 John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
What do John the Baptist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Baptist chaplain for AA, and a Catholic priest have in common? They all believed in the power [grace] of confessing one’s sins to provide palpable closure, healing, and forgiveness regardless of the era and/or their religious denomination in their lifetimes.
Recently my grandson made his First Confession in preparation for the receiving of his First Holy Communion in the spring. When asked how he felt after the event, these were his words: “Dear Grandma, I felt so good. I only told father 4 things. Bey [sic] and love. K.” He not only believes in the power of the Confession, but felt it. And that is the same reason why John the Baptist preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached the need for a Confessing Church. That is why the Baptist chaplain of AA asked a Catholic priest to become trained in the 5th step so that he could provide closure in a very special and meaningful way for those Catholics doing a moral inventory of their lives during the 5th step. And that is why Catholic priests spend hours in the Confessional hearing sins both large and small. They wouldn’t if they didn’t know that Confession gives each of us a new release on life.
How and why does a confession impart good feelings? It is captured well by the following words of a priest during his homily. We go to Confession, not because we are preoccupied with sin, but, because it allows us to make more room for God in our hearts. And that is why it feels good to make and say a good Confession. The confession pushes sin and its shame and regret out the door of our hearts making room for God’s grace, His presence and His Love. The Confession frees up space previously occupied by wrong doing and guilt. It is the process by which we declutter the knots and the mess that is taking up too much space in our heart.
We also feel good after doing other things that make more time and space for God including praying, performing charitable works of mercy, loving others authentically, and acting unselfishly. God’s grace that flows into us is always a mood booster even while providing intangible spiritual growth.
Some people wonder why Catholics have to go to Confession. They wonder whether it's actually an admission of lack of faith. After all, believers know that God knows all. So if He knows all, why do we have to remind him of our sins or even tell Him our faults?
We don’t go to Confession because we have to tell God or remind Him of what our sins are. He is very aware of them already; remember He willingly died for each of them. So why do we go to Confession? Just to feel good? Our parish priest said it best this past Sunday. He used the example of a husband and wife. When we feel that our spouses offended us, we are well aware of their sins. But having the knowledge of what their sins are is not enough to bring about reconciliation! Of course not. We need our beloved to admit the sin, express sorrow and ask for forgiveness. It is this process that provides for the reconciliation. God uses natural settings like this to teach us about the supernatural! To bring about reconciliation with God, we also have to admit our sins before we are able to ask for and/or ask for God’s merciful forgiveness. Then reconciliation with God is then made possible. The difference between Divine and human mercy is the degree. God’s is always unconditional and full; human forgiveness is most often conditional and limited. Whereas we often recall someone’s previous offenses when offended once again by our beloved; God doesn’t do that. God’s forgiveness is as complete and full as is his all-knowing and all-loving state. His memory of past sins is also completely erased after extending his Merciful Love.
This is the mystery of the confession that too often gets overlooked by both insiders and outsiders of the Faith. Here is my wish for you. Go to Confession this Advent so that you too can give Jesus more room in your heart. You will feel better! He will shower you with grace. Have a Blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas!