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Father Muench Says...

Sacrament of Penance in Year of Mercy

Dec. 9, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

I am certain that you know the whole story however, we will never forget the words of Jesus. They are so important.

Pope Francis has everybody thinking about Mercy – God’s Mercy – these days.  Pope Francis has initiated a whole year, a Jubilee Year of Mercy – a time of prayer and celebration of God’s Mercy, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

God’s Mercy is a frequent focus of Pope Francis’ preaching and teaching.  He wants us to realize the importance of the message of God’s Mercy for our Catholic Church.  So we can realize Pope Francis is joining Jesus in teaching, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

Today, I would like to speak with you about God’s Mercy as brought to us in the Sacrament of Penance.  I think this is important in this time of Advent as many of you prepare for your Christmas Confession.

As a priest, I have been chosen to minister the Mercy of God in this Sacrament of Penance.  I find the questions and concerns about the Sacrament of Penance that I receive so interesting.  However, I go to confession myself so I think I know the challenges of this sacrament – and also the experience of receiving the glorious grace of God that comes through this wonderful sacrament.   I know the peace of being a forgiven sinner. 

My prayer today is that each person who approaches me in confession will experience the peace and love of God through the Sacrament of Penance.

Now, I would like to share with you some things about the reception of this important sacrament.   The preparation before receiving this Sacrament of Penance is truly an important part of this experience.  Our time of prayer before approaching the priest is a moment to realize again our own personal holiness, our own goodness.
We are baptized people – we are a blessed people in the Lord.  The recognition of our sinfulness, of our failings, in no way cancels our holiness.  Through our Baptism, God continues to be our Savior and continues to be part of our lives, part of all that we are.  Christ continues to say to us, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
So, how do I approach this Sacrament of Penance – this time of Confession?  Each confession is my time to celebrate God’s forgiveness, God’s Mercy, God’s love, God’s place in my life.  I come celebrating that the Lord finds me so loving and penitential that Christ wants to be part of my life – that Jesus willed to die for me on the cross.  This Sacrament enlivens my life and dedication to live a good life.  I need to know and experience God’s forgiving love and Mercy.

So, why remember my sins and failings?  I need a time of real conversion, of serious changes.  So, I must make a plan.  In preparing for confession, I must make a plan to bring new life into my own life – God’s love and Mercy. 
Each time I approach the priest in the Sacrament of Penance, I must be ready to eliminate some things in my life; I must be ready to add some things to my life.  In this way, I will continue to  celebrate God’s love for me.
As a confessor, when someone comes to confess their sins and failings I want to respond to them, “So, what are you going to do about this.”  I am hoping that this is my way of saying to this person that they must have a plan for their conversion in the Lord.

Advent is so special.  This Advent is even more special as we begin Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of God’s Mercy.  This Year’s Advent Confession is a very special celebration showing our readiness for a conversion in our lives because of God’s Mercy, our readiness to change what must be changed in the Spirit of God’s Mercy.

Through this celebration of the Sacrament of Penance each of us will immerse ourselves in the holiness that is ours.  This means that we must live as Holy Ones blessed by God’s forgiveness and Mercy.  This is the challenge that we must be ready to accept each time we approach this Sacrament of God’s love and Mercy.

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