2/8.1 Sacramental Confession; a meeting with Christ.
Remember your compassion, O Lord, and your merciful love,
Lent is the most opportune time for considering how we receive the sacrament of Penance, that meeting with Christ, who makes himself present in the priest. It is a meeting which is always unique and always different. In it He welcomes us as the Good Shepherd, He heals our wounds, He cleanses us and strengthens us. What Christ had promised through the Prophets is accomplished in this sacrament. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost; I will bring back the strayed, bind up the wounds of the cripples and strengthen the weak, and the fat and strong I will watch over.
When we go to receive this sacrament we must think of Christ above all else. We must make sure He is the centre of this sacramental act. God’s glory and love must be more important than our sins. We need to look at Jesus much more than at ourselves. We must keep our eyes on his goodness rather than on our own wretchedness, because interior life is a dialogue of love in which God is always the point of reference.
The prodigal son who returns home – and that is who we are when we decide to go to Confession – sets out on his return journey because he is moved by the lamentable situation he finds himself in. All the same, he never loses his consciousness of his sin: I am not worthy to be called your son. However, as he approaches his father’s house he begins to recall his affection for all the things to do with his home, the home he has always remembered as his true one. Then in the distance he sees the unmistakable figure of his father coming towards him. This is the most important moment – the meeting. Every contrite Confession is a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one’s true identity, which has been upset and disturbed by sin, a liberation in the very depth of one’s self and thus a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved, which the majority of people in our time are no longer capable of experiencing. It is up to us to help others to be aware of, to experience, a sense of loss of God, so that they may draw close to him, for He is waiting for them.
We should feel a desire to be alone with Our Lord as soon as possible, just as his disciples looked forward to being with him after He had been absent for some days. We need to pour out before him all the sorrow we experience as we become aware of our weaknesses, our errors, our imperfections and sins, both in the way we have carried out our professional duties and in our relations with other people; in our apostolic activity, indeed, even in our life of piety.
This desire that we have to make Christ the centre of our Confession is important if we are to avoid routine, and if we are to draw out from the depths of our soul those things that are more weighty and which will only rise to the surface in the light of God’s love. Be mindful of thy mercy, O Lord, and of thy steadfast love.