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Father Muench Says...

‘Talking to Strangers’ in confession

October 14, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I recently started reading a rather interesting book, “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell. This book investigates several clashes that have happened when people do not understand each other – like the times a policeman treats a person badly during an altercation, and everything went wrong. This author investigates why these things happened and the failures that occurred. He looks at why people involved in a situation didn’t trust each other.

I found this book rather interesting and informative. As a priest, each time I hear confessions, I talk to strangers. Gladwell seems to challenge us all to truly try to understand each other and treat others well,especially strangers. So, a little about confession today.

The sacrament of penance is a meaningful part of Catholic life. This is an important time for Catholics in our efforts to live a good Christian life. This sacrament accomplishes something extremely important for us. We recognize ourselves as sinners, and we are drawn to seek to be reconciled with our God. As a priest, my challenge is to lead those who have failed to be reconciled to the Lord.

When we speak of confession, we often use the expression, “the sacrament of reconciliation.” Reconciliation is our readiness to restore a right relationship with our God and with others. As Catholics, we are on a constant journey in life each and every day to do all we can to establish for ourselves a good relationship with our God – a close friendship. Jesus says often in the Gospels that he wants to be our friend.

Confession – the sacrament of reconciliation – is much more than the forgiveness of sins. This sacrament is about a conversion – a readiness to change, to be converted. As we prepare for confession, we consider what keeps us from living a good, dedicated life; we consider our failures, our sins. This may be a failure to do something good for others, to respect, even love others in the Lord. I believe that God places many wonderful opportunities into our lives, ways we can make our lives better than ever before, yet, we fail because of our selfishness, our sinfulness. We need conversion. We need reconciliation with our God and with others.

By the way, reconciliation should be our way of life, our friendship with God, our readiness to reach out to others – to other individuals, to other groups. I want to share with you some ideas about reconciliation that I received recently. I receive a monthly email meditation from a Christian couple, Denise and Walter Muench. They are no relation (except as friends). Years ago, we met quite by surprise, probably because we share the same family name. Over the years, we have had good conversations, usually by email. So, here is what they wrote this month about reconciliation:

“And it doesn’t end here. In fact, it just begins. We now as His own are given the ministry of reconciliation. There is a world that needs to hear the Good News. We hear a lot about reconciliation today, but this is not something that can be legislated, mandated, decreed. True reconciliation is only possible through the Blood of Christ.”

In the sacrament of penance, we are transformed by the Blood of Christ. Jesus leads and guides us to realize how blessed we are and how sacred our life is, so that we can be transformed. Through the sacrament, we can truly be reconciled with the Lord. It’s a powerful witness to what it means to be a Christian – to be a friend of the Lord Jesus. Let us pray today that we allow the Lord to lead and guide us.

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