All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation changed my life forever. How's that for an opening line!! But it is not just a line, it is the truth ... and it continues to be the truth over 10 years later.
As I shared yesterday, I have always been a huge Confession Chicken - until that fateful day when Jesus made me laugh - but there was more that happened that day that changed my heart toward this sacrament. The Holy Spirit drew me to learn more about why Catholics come to a Priest to confess and don't just whisper our sins to God directly. I started with the Catechism of the Catholic Church but ended with an deep inspiration that could have only been inspired by the Holy Spirit.
First the Catechism lesson .... did you know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation also known as the Sacrament of Conversion, aka the Sacrament of Penance, and the more probably well known moniker -- Confession -- is a sacrament of healing? I had NO idea. NONE. I am not sure where I was during these lessons in catechism class -- as a girl with un-diagnosed AD/HD -- I was probably either doodling or daydreaming; and if it was taught any time after puberty, I was definitely either staring at or flirting with a boy.
Although I did not know this intellectually, I certainly received the message intuitively. Shortly after my "called back into confessional" experience - another strange experience brought me to a practice of more frequent participation in the Sacrament. The weather in New England is not notorious for nothing, beautiful Fall foliage is followed up quickly by cold, snowy winters - that sometimes cant' wait for the calendar to usher them in. This particular year the misery started in November, and seemed to be most harsh on the weekend - since I had recently signed up to cover a 2:30 pm Adoration hour on Saturdays, I had to venture out regardless of rain, snow or sleet (mailman has nothing on a girl determined to hang out with Jesus for an hour!). The second half of my holy hour intersected with the start of Saturday Confessions. This Saturday was just cold, windy and wet enough that no one came to speak with Father, who had braved the elements to offer this great Sacrament. While it had only been a few weeks since my last confession, I was pretty sure I could think of something, so I went to confession.
The following week, same weather, slightly older Priest (we were blessed with three at this Parish, and they took turns covering Reconciliation). After 45 minutes still no one, including my replacement for the last hour of Adoration. I figured since I was there anyway, Father had come all the way over from the rectory, and I am SURE I could think of something I did during the week to confess, I would go again. It was nice only having a week's worth of junk to leave at the foot of the cross -- I always leave the confessional feeling 100 pounds lighter. Third week of the same crummy pre-winter freezing drizzle, no one in their right mind would come out unless they were addicted to their once a week appointment with Jesus - as I was. Third priest in residence comes to cover weekly confession hour, he is elderly and the trip over I know was risking life and hip - so HOW could I allow this trip to be in vain. After waiting half hour and just as my Holy Hour was completing, I decided I would go again to confession. I was fairly sure I could think of SOMETHING to confess - if I am ever stuck I just asked Mary to help me uncover where I have done or failed to do something that week. No one knows better than you Mama where you sins are at!!
This time when I emerged from the confessional there was a few people waiting, I looked at the heavens and laughed mouthing, "HEY, you tricked me." Three weeks of confession in a row, how holy of me - in a way yes, but not in the pious way I may have initially saw this behavior. What I noticed during that third week were subtle changes in my heart especially towards those people I was struggling to forgive - a softness, a patience and a peace I had not possessed in those situations before. What was the deal?? What had I done differently after so many years (in some circumstances) of struggling to let pain, bitterness and even anger towards them go? This is when I pulled out the Catechism of the Catholic Church for answers... and read:
"The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace
Healing. That was it. The grace I had received from frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Conversion, Forgiveness (whatever name you feel drawn to) had changed me. The wounds with bitter roots so deep, were being healed - from the inside out God through this GIFT of reconciliation was curing what had ailed my soul for so long and KEPT me from building a relationship with Him. I had hardened my heart without ever realizing the long reaching effect it was having on me - my ability to connect in a real way with people was obvious but that it reached beyond to my distancing (to almost a place of indifference) with God surprised, and quite honestly, frightened me.
St. James reminds us that if we draw near to God and He will draw nearer to you -- and that is exactly what happened when I came to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I have learned through my experiences, that God is never outdone in his generosity. I came to him seeking forgiveness and then He knocked my socks off with the radical reorientation - a much needed change I might add - that was happening with me. But what does this all have to do with a gift?
It is simple ... a gift refused by the intended recipient can be a great loss to the one who it is meant to benefit, while the giver may be sad, he has lost nothing, but the receiver occurs an immeasurable loss. Furthermore, if this gift is received but yet left wrapped under the Christmas tree or in the closet, it is not only useless but a mystery never uncovered. If this gift is opened but left unused - it is still wasted and the receiver has still not reaped the benefit intrinsic in the gift. A gift must be accepted, opened and used to be of true value, this is even MORE so in response to God's gifts of love, mercy and forgiveness.
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras, 2015.