His Great Mercy

It’s the season of Lent and God is calling us to repent.  He longs for us to turn our hearts away from sin and to receive His tender mercy.  Like any loving parent, our Lord wants to hold us in His arms as we tell Him what we’ve done wrong and ask for His forgiveness.  Yet, so much of the time, we don’t go to Him.  We avoid confession, perhaps out of fear that God won’t forgive us.  But here’s a newsflash:  God isn’t going to fall out of love with you.  EVER.  No matter what your sins might be, no matter how long you’ve been away from Him.  He’s not just loving you until someone better comes along.  Even in our sins, He loves us.  Even in our sins, He died for us.  If our sins are as numerous as the grains of sands on the beach, God’s mercy is the ocean—limitless, deep, and abiding. 
In confession, we encounter that love and mercy.  We are penitents at the feet of our loving Lord.  We’re talking not to a priest, but to God Himself.  The priest is just His instrument.  Only God the Father in heaven can forgive our sins through the saving love of Christ.  Jesus gave His priests the authority to forgive sins when He breathed on His Apostles and said to them:  “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:22-23).  When we come to Christ in the confessional, we’re like the woman at Jacob’s well, face-to-face with Jesus, Who knows “everything I have ever done!” (John 4:29).  We come to Him in true sorrow for all that we’ve done or failed to do as Christians.  Of course, He knows our sins already.  Our confession is the chance to own up to them and say, “I’m sorry, Lord, please forgive me.  I won’t do it again.”  And He meets us there, not as a judge or accuser, but as a loving Father Who has been anxiously awaiting our return to Him.  Every confession is like the homecoming of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable.  “See, the Father comes out to meet you.”  St. Ambrose wrote, “He will fall on your neck and give you a kiss.”  In fact, Russians call confession “the kiss of Christ.”  A Russian-born writer, Catherine de Hueck wrote that her mother taught her to talk with Jesus in confession as if she were talking with our own earthly father:  “I would tell Him how sorry I was for doing something He didn’t like.  In my imagination, Christ hugged me and said something like, ‘That’s all right.  I know it’s not always easy to do the right thing.’ Then He would kiss me and bless and say: ‘Now, go and play.’ ”  If we could all imagine Christ like this, the line at the confessional would be a mile long!
As Catholics, we believe that there is real grace and life-changing love in the power of this healing Sacrament given to us by Jesus. In confession, Christ raises us up from the death of our sins and unbinds us just as He raised Lazarus and set him free from the bonds of death. Every confession is a rebirth of Grace. The English writer G.K. Chesterton said that confession was one of the reasons he became Catholic.  “The Catholic believes that in that dim corner, in that brief ritual, God has really remade us in His own image (The Way of the Lamb).  The word “Lent” means “springtime.”  It’s a season of new beginnings, when death gives way to life and light overcomes the darkness.  As we prepare for Easter, let’s use this Lent to turn our hearts once more to Jesus’ saving mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.  He’s waiting there to hear us and forgive us.  His arms are open wide in welcome and His mercy is limitless.  If you’re a Catholic who’s been away from the Church, for whatever reason, God is calling you home to Himself.  Come home for Easter.  Come home in confession.
“Your sins are forgiven.”  —-Mark 2:5

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Juan R. Velez
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 05:37:35

    As a priest I can see the healing power of this sacrament. I can understand Chesterton’s words. St. Josemaria Escriva urged people to take their friends to this encounter with Christ, this sacrament of mercy and joy.


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