By Deirdre Long
Sunday, February 12, 2017
As I have been working with my co-catechists in the Partners program to prepare our students for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I am reminded of my own experience. Our students have been working hard and trying to remain prayerful while doing so. They remind me of how stressed I was preparing to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But despite the nerves and anxiety leading up to my first confession, it all faded in comparison to the joy and relief after receiving my first absolution. The joy and grace of Reconciliation gets forgotten at times when we are caught up with the ‘to dos’ of getting ready for it, but the beauty of this Sacrament is the result of receiving it.
In the first reading, we hear that God “understands man’s every deed.” It isn’t that God knows all our actions, but he understands them. God gets it! God knows that we are going to sin, he knows we will falter time and again to act even as we know we should. God understands it and will always forgive. Just like when we explain or confess to a hurt parent, friend, or spouse our actions, they’ll say, “I understand.” God understands.
Then, in the second reading we are reminded that the instructions we have received from God through Scripture and leaders of our faith are based in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is tapping into that wisdom. During our confession, we don’t just have to say the sins we have committed, but we can talk about the things we struggle with – prayer, service, commitment, generosity, etc. Whatever it is that we are called to do but struggle to do as God intends. There is wisdom being offered during Reconciliation, either in a conversation with the priest or in the acts of penance that are unique to our spiritual needs.
Finally, in the Gospel we hear the word “righteousness” as something for which to strive. I struggle with this word. I always think of acting with righteousness as a bad thing, like pride. However, what we are really being called to is to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Jesus is calling us to live what we believe, and exceed the expectations when possible. Sure, “Thou shalt not kill,” seems easy enough for most, but what about avoiding all violent actions? AT first glance it seems like Jesus is just adding to an already long list of things not to do in this scene, but he is doing the opposite. He is showing his disciples, and us today, that the list of Commandments is instructing us to ask a single question before we act: Will this harm my relationship with God and/or the well-being of myself, others, and Creation? If we ask ourselves this question before we act, how different our world would be. If we ask this question before we go to Reconciliation, how different our confessions would be.
When we confess our sins and receive absolution we experience forgiveness transcendent of any other experience on earth. But Reconciliation is about so much more. These readings are sharing small pieces about how rich this Sacrament truly is. Reconciliation is about coming to God who knows, understands, forgives, and is simply waiting for us to accept a forgiveness that has already been offered to us by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Reconciliation is about developing our wisdom and right judgement by seeking instruction in God’s wisdom. Reconciliation is about digging deeper, working harder, and striving to be the best version of ourselves. Reconciliation is the opportunity to humbly come to God and say, “I struggle with this,” or, “I made this mistake again,” and then add to that confession, “but I am truly sorry and desire to do better, to do my best.”
When I tell people that Reconciliation is one of my favorite Sacraments, I get odd looks and surprised reactions. I don’t see Reconciliation as something be sacred of or nervous about. I see it as one of the greatest opportunities we have as Catholic Christians. With everything that we talk about in class and remind our students of in preparing for Reconciliation, this is one thing we come back to continuously. Reconciliation is an opportunity to try again: to try again at understanding, to try again at acting with wisdom, to try again at righteousness, to try again at manifesting God’s love in the world.
Deirdre Long is a Partners Religious Education teacher with Old St. Patrick’s Church. For more information on Partners, please contact Bea Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org.