I know there are many people who are downright terrified of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. They are scared for different reasons, but ultimately, I think, it comes down to the belief that they view themselves as unforgivable. How could God ever forgive me for doing this or that?
Sadly, such thoughts keep people from having that deep, intimate, and loving friendship that Jesus came down from heaven to restore. Let’s face it, St. Paul got it right when he wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet as Catholics we are so blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation available to us.
Once I was giving an RCIA group a tour of the church. Some wanted to see inside the Reconciliation Room, so I let them go in one at a time and look around. When everyone was done, I had them sit in the pew for a few minutes and told them a brief story.
I told them that if they showed up early for our Sunday evening Mass, they more than likely would see me standing in line for Reconciliation. I try to go every two weeks, and I do so before this Mass, one of our most crowded, not because that’s the only time available, but because I want to witness to those who see me.
I wanted the people I served, especially the young who frequented this Mass, to realize that I try to practice what I preach. I wanted to be a model, in the words of St. Francis, of “proclaim the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
I told the group that, in addition to my desire to be seen, celebrating Reconciliation with priests I worked with on a daily basis kept me humble. I know not everyone would be comfortable with it, and that’s OK. For me, however, I found it pretty freeing. It reminded me of my humanness and my need for mercy and forgiveness. Despite my job, my theology degrees, and my years of experience, I’m just a poor sinner like everyone else.
For some of you reading these words, I hope you’ll take them as a gentle reminder to use these days leading up to Christmas as a time to get right with God. Wherever you have to go, take advantage of God’s healing mercy. It will make the joy that comes with Christmas all the more meaningful.