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God’s presence, mercy felt deeply in confessional

Broken lives healed, unity with the faith restored through God's forgiveness

Published: January 16, 2016   
CNS /Alessandro Bianchi pool via EPA
Pope Francis hears confession during a penitential liturgy in early March 2015 in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. During his Aug. 2, 2015, Angelus, Pope Francis told people not to be afraid or ashamed to go to confession.

When we think of mercy, we think of the unfathomable love, compassion and forgiveness of Jesus. When we think of those three things, we automatically think about the sacrament of confession.

Through this wonderful sacrament we, in fact, come in contact with Jesus Christ himself as he bestows on us wonderful graces and heals our wounded souls. So with all of this, it is truly an honor, as a priest, to sit in the person of Jesus and to forgive sins. St. John Paul II once said, “I never felt the most like Jesus than when I was celebrating Mass and hearing confessions,” and I concur. 

Every confession is special, but sometimes you get someone who has committed a serious sin or someone who has been away from the sacrament for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. As a priest, at least for me, I can feel the presence of the Lord in a very real and profound way. It’s almost as if you can feel this heavy burden being lifted off of their shoulders that has been crippling them spiritually for years. However, keeping this in mind I would like to share a moment of insight for me.

Bishop Robert Barron, in his famous “Catholicism” series, explained the Scripture passage that states, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Bishop Barron explains that in order to understand what this passage meant we have to look at it through the lens of a first-century Jew. For a Jew, to say the Kingdom of God is at hand is to say that the Messiah is in the flesh binding and uniting his people. It was Jesus in the flesh walking among his people binding their wounds and bringing them back into right relationship with the Father and the rest of the worshipping community.

This would explain why Jesus healed so many people. These people that he healed were considered to be “unclean” and were not allowed to worship in the temple. At that time if you suffered from any kind of illness such as leprosy, or if you were blind, deaf, a paralytic, etc. then they believed that it was because you were a sinner and therefore deemed “ritually unclean.” 

The sacrament of reconciliation is no different. In confession you have Jesus, even to this day, walking among his people. His people who are broken and wounded from sin come to him and after he hears about our brokenness he binds up our wounds and offering them up to God the Father looks on us with sincere love and compassion brings us back into a deeper relationship with himself and with the rest of the worshipping community.

Through this sacrament, he brings us back into communion with his people. 

It is an honor and a blessing as a priest to be an Alter Christus, another Christ in the world. It brings me great joy to be an instrument of his love, mercy and compassion to unite his people by bringing them back into communion with the Church.

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