Why We Go to Confession

Why We Go to Confession
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During this Holy Week leading up to Easter, we celebrate God's love for us, a freely given gift for each and every individual. God doesn't just tell you and me that He loves us; He sent His Son into the world to be with us, die for us, and rise to new life for us.

Holy Week is a time to draw closer to the Cross, closer to Christ, so that we may be close to Him in the Resurrection.

To help prepare, Cardinal Dolan has designated this Monday, March 30, as Reconciliation Monday. All parishes in the Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn, and Diocese of Rockville Center will have priests available to hear confessions from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM. This sacrament blesses us with the gift of mercy that we so desire, allowing us to return to God with all that we are.

Earlier this Lent I asked my Sunday school students: "How much does God love you? How much does He love the world?" One astute second-grader exclaimed: "He loves us enough to save us a spot in Heaven with Him no matter what we do!" I have to admit the answer caught me off-guard, as his response was more insightful than that which I might have expected from an adult. There are plenty of ideas out there about life and love; sometimes it takes a child's simple trust to sum up deep truths. No sin can keep us from God's love, and no lack of sin can earn us that same love.

Holy Week also helps make sense of what Pope Francis has announced as a Jubilee of Mercy -- a whole year dedicated to it -- beginning in December. It's an invitation to experience God's overwhelming love for each one of us, an authentic love which is more than a concept, theory, or dream. God's love dwells in the depths of our being, invites personal encounter, stretches farther than the universe. It's not simply, "I love you to the moon and back," but "I love you to the Cross and back, again and again and again." With every Mass we celebrate the Paschal Mystery -- Christ's life, passion, death, and resurrection -- and God continues to draw us into His great love. With every Good Friday we mark the greatest Act of Love there ever was, the death of our Savior on a cross.

God's love never ends and conquers all: pain, suffering, even death. Pope St. John Paul the Great reflected, "There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy -- that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God." He lifts us out of our lowliness and misery and promises us healing and eternal reward, if we would but believe and follow Him.

Announced during a penance service -- during which Pope Francis himself went to Confession -- the Holy Year of Mercy will be an opportunity for renewed communion with God and with each other, as we all return to Him.

This Holy Week and throughout the year, Jesus embraces us sinners with deep consolation: "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mt 9:12-13). "Go!" He tells us again, urging us out of our afflictions and sin. We are a people walking in darkness who have seen a great light (Is 9:1, Mt 4:16), but we remain skeptical and drawn to dark corners. When we start buying and selling the .porn domain, we reveal a great need for mercy. When we have convinced ourselves that abortion means freedom for women, we cry out for mercy like an infant wails for his or her mother. When Christians are persecuted and even beheaded for their faith, we fall on our knees imploring Christ's merciful love.

As a Divine Mercy devotion puts it: For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

That converted sinner St. Augustine explained: "God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us." To receive his mercy, we must be honest about our faults with ourselves and Him. In reconciliation with him, we too, become more merciful;"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven" (Lk 6:36-37).

God's love transforms us beyond the best we could ever imagine or will for ourselves. No matter the sin, we can turn back to Him. That is why we go to confession. That is why Pope Francis keeps focusing on mercy. We walk the path to our eternal home with great expectation, for "He loves us enough to save us a spot in heaven with Him no matter what we do!"

Have mercy. Isn't it what you long for?

Sharla Cloutier is director for East Region at Vitae Foundation and is a volunteer with Catholic Voices USA.

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