By Steve DeLaney, Asst. Director of Evangelization
A few years ago, I heard a missionary priest from the Philippines speak about the poverty in his community. He ended his homily by encouraging us to act to help the poor in a way that helps them believe in the love of God. “Send them a message that God is real!” he exclaimed. I have always remembered those words. One of the privileges of being a Catholic, of being a follower of Jesus, is the opportunity to make God’s love real to others. It is a real privilege.
In his new book, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis talks to us about the sacrament of reconciliation:
“This is a very beautiful thing. It has deep significance because we are social beings. If you are not capable of talking to your brother about your mistakes, you can be sure that you can’t talk about them with God, either, and therefore you end up confessing into the mirror, to yourself. Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus. It’s a way to be real and authentic: we face the facts by looking at another person and not in the mirror.”
The profound wisdom behind the sacrament of reconciliation is that it is an opportunity to be real and authentic. It is not easy to sit in front of another person and share with them our sins – our weakness, our failings, our darkness. But the act of doing so is a way of making our sorrow real, of showing our trust that God’s mercy is real. The sacrament of reconciliation does not exist to somehow limit God’s mercy, as a hoop to jump through so that we can be forgiven. God forgives us – but as human beings, we need the opportunities to experience that forgiveness as real, so we are not just staring in the mirror, as the Pope wisely says.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser (who will speak at the Keane Institute in November) writes this statement:
“An honest confession is a non-negotiable step in any healing process. What healing programs have discovered – just when so many of us inside church circles are forgetting it – is that, good as it is, it’s not enough just to be contrite silently in our hearts. Full healing can only take place when we express that contrition not just to God in the secret recesses of the soul, but when we also speak it out, and in detail, to another human being.
We cannot transform our lives by willpower alone, we also need grace and community and both of these, at a point, depend upon the type of transparency that can only come about by honest confession.”
We need to know that forgiveness is real. We need each other. We need the grace that comes to us through a loving community. These needs are not flaws or weaknesses – they are the privileges of the followers of Jesus. We have the opportunity to experience God’s love and mercy made real through other human beings. And we get to share it with each other.
We invite you to share in the sacrament of Reconciliation this Lenten season. The sacrament is offered every Saturday evening at 4:30 p.m. A special Taize Penance Service, led by the ICC Choir, will be held this Wednesday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. Several area priests will be available.