Five Minutes with the Word: Lent 2012′s entry for today concerns reconciliation. I’ll admit right upfront, I haven’t visited a traditional Catholic confessional in over 20 years, although I make it a practice to regularly ask God’s forgiveness in the privacy of my own heart, during my own solitary prayer time. A few years back I even took a course — the 4T Prosperity Program — a spiritual version of the 12 steps, with the goal of helping each individual achieve a fuller relationship with God and thus, a more prosperous life on every level.
One of the homework assignments had included admitting my shortcomings to God and to another person. We were advised to select the person very carefully, as they should be someone of faith who also had compassion and understanding for the process of spiritual development. I’d made a very wise choice in a dear friend (someone I’d also immortalized as “Audrey” in Water Signs) and I will never forget how sweet and supportive she remained as she listened without comment to my “confession”.
And as predicted, I experienced an enormous wave of relief when it was all over!
It is…an appeal to God for a clear conscience.
While St. Peter is describing the sacrament of Baptism here, he could just as easily be talking about Reconciliation. For what could possibly be a better way to experience a clean conscience than going to confession? When we confess our sins we are forgiven — completely!
But as we all know, the real challenge is keeping our conscience clear after we have received absolution. It’s one thing to experience God’s forgiveness, but what will change us so we don’t end up confessing the same things over and over again?
You might be surprised to learn the answer lies — again — in confession! The sacrament doesn’t just empty us of the past; it also fills us with God’s grace for the future. That’s because in confession we meet the One who came to pardon our sins and to transform us so that we can be holy as he is holy. In confession, Jesus lifts the weight of our past sin from our shoulders so that we can go out into the world free from guilt, inspired by grace to say an even firmer “no” to sin than before.
Of course, we all face temptation just as Jesus did in today’s Gospel. The good news is that because Jesus triumphed in the wilderness, we can find victory as well.
First by trusting that we are never alone. Jesus is with us in every situation. Second, by knowing that he has given us the grace of confession not only to forgive us but also to strengthen us against temptation. He is always teaching us, urging us on, and inspiring us with his grace.
So make sure you celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent. And when you do, know that the grace of this sacrament is there to both cleanse you and to fill you with divine power. It is an ongoing grace that brings you closer to Jesus and strengthens you against temptation.
Pray: “Thank you Lord for all the grace that comes with confession! Give me more confidence in your mercy and love”.