And the verdict is…FORGIVEN! 

  
There’s a moment of high drama played out at the end of every criminal trial in America. After all the evidence has been presented and all the arguing has been done, the jury presents their findings to the court. The defendant stands to hear the verdict read. The courtroom is silent. And the verdict is pronounced. Will it be guilty or not guilty? How many of our favorite books and movies have hinged on that breathless moment of judgement? From Perry Mason to Atticus Finch to the real-life drama of the O.J. Simpson trial, those dramatic revelations are part of our cultural experience. Of course, if you happen to be the defendant on trial, all this high drama wouldn’t be nearly so entertaining. Imagine being in a situation where your life is on the line for something you’re accused of doing. Where you’ll spend the rest of your days depends on the verdict that’s about to be read. And there’s nothing you can do to change it. It’s out of your hands.  

I wonder if many people envision a similar scene when God judges us. A celestial courtroom with God as THE JUDGE. He looks at us and we can’t return His gaze. All the sins of our lives are the evidence against us. We tremble and quake. Despite our faith, we stand in fear of His righteous judgement. We know that God’s love for us sent Jesus to live as one of us and to die on the Cross to save us from our sins. We know that we are His prodigal children, loved and forgiven. And yet, we sometimes are afraid to approach Him for the mercy and love that He longs to give us. We imagine a courtroom scene even though we’ve been shown the embrace of our merciful Savior on the Cross.  

When we sin, we can fall into a few misunderstandings about God’s mercy. We can believe, falsely, that God isn’t offended by our sin and so we don’t need the Sacrament of Confession. Or we can believe, also falsely, that our sin is so dark and horrible that God would never forgive us, so why go to Confession at all? In the first case, we’re rejecting what Christ teaches us about Confession. (John 20: 21-23; James 5: 14-17; Matthew 16:19). And when we believe our sins to be greater than God’s mercy, we put ourselves above Him, judging Him instead to be less than all-merciful. He reminds us often in Scripture that His love and mercy will always be available to us (Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 103:2-3; I John 1:9; Acts 3:19). When we recognize our sin (which is a grace given by God) and we repent and go to Confession, His mercy is abundant, every single time.

Jesus created Confession because He knew that we need to speak our sins aloud to another human being It’s part of the healing aspect of the Sacrament. And yet, it is Christ Himself Whom we meet in the confessional and it is His Mercy which forgives our sins. Unlike in a human “courtroom,” the confessional is never a place of condemnation or shame. It is the fount of life itself. We are always found “forgiven” and, through God’s grace, our sins are forgotten. Many may believe that Confession isn’t necessary if we ask God’s forgiveness “in our hearts.” But this isn’t what the Bible teaches us about forgiveness. As a former Baptist, I can assure you that Confession is a treasure of God’s grace. If you’ve been away from Confession, this season of Lent is a wonderful time to come back. Pray that God will make you aware of your sins and then go to Confession. The priest won’t judge you, nor will he be shocked by any of your sins—he’s heard everything. You’ll experience God’s love and forgiveness in his words of absolution. I can tell you that Confession is one of the greatest gifts of Christ to His Church—don’t go another day without it.  

“Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves. One asks forgiveness, one asks it of another person, and in Confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus.”

                 —Pope Francis  

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. frjuanvelez
    Mar 07, 2016 @ 15:06:24

    St. Josemaria Escrivá often spoke about God’s mercy in the sacrament of Confession. In “Christ is Passing By” he wrote: ”
    How do you explain this confident prayer — this knowledge that we shall not perish in the battle? It is a conviction rooted in something which is always a cause of wonder to me: our divine filiation. Our Lord, who during this Lent is asking us to change, is not a tyrannical master or a rigid and implacable judge: he is our Father. He speaks to us about our lack of generosity, our sins, our mistakes; but he does so in order to free us from them, to promise us his friendship and his love. Awareness that God is our Father brings joy to our conversion: it tells us that we are returning to our Father’s house.”

    Reply

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