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Father Muench Says...

Thinking about confession

June 16, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I was listening to a talk given by John Allen at the Los Angeles Religious Congress. He presented an interesting review of Pope Francis’ seven years as pope. Among many things, he spoke about the holy father’s concern as to the neglect of confession by Catholics throughout the world. Pope Francis has realized that long before he became pope, fewer and fewer Catholics were going to confession.

Allen told the story that Pope Francis likes to visit the various parishes of Rome for Mass. Often he will come early and ask to join with the priests who were hearing confessions before the Mass much to the people’s surprise.

I also remember seeing a video of Pope Francis entering St. Peter’s Basilica and going to join the priests who were hearing the confessions of the people who were visiting the basilica. Before he entered his confessional, he walked over to one of the other priests and made his own confession.

Today, I would like to use this opportunity to join Pope Francis to encourage the people of our diocese to make the sacrament of penance, to make confession a regular part of their spiritual lives.

So, let’s talk about confession. In faith, we believe that one of the reasons Jesus came to our world was to teach us of God’s great love and that our God forgives us our sins. Many of Jesus’ parables, like the parable of the Prodigal Son, demonstrates the sublime meaning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which is to forgive sins, reconciling people to God, leading them to true happiness.

Jesus laid the foundation of this sacrament when he prayed over his apostles and sent the Holy Spirit to them. “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”

We prepare for this sacrament of penance – also called reconciliation today – with a prayer of sincere gratitude. Jesus has done so much for us. We must be a grateful people. Jesus continues to love and guide us. We must be a grateful people. The Lord has been so good to us, coming to be one of us, to teach us, to die for you and me, to rise to new life, to forgive our sins. We must be a grateful people.

As we prepare for confession, we must consider our own lives, seeing the good things that we have accomplished and seeing the sins and failings that interfere with our relationship with our loving God. We have missed so many opportunities to follow the guidance of Jesus, to do something to demonstrate our love for God and for our neighbor, making our world a better place. Then we need a plan – a new way to make our lives more alive with the Lord, to open our hearts in love for Our Lord and Savior.

This demands a change of heart, a real conversion in the Holy Spirit, a plan that will develop a new and better relationship with our God and make our lives more loving, demonstrating our sorrow and contrition for the sins we have committed or the actions we failed to make part of our lives.

So, we are ready to bring our confession to the priest, who through his ordination can bring us God’s forgiveness. This confession liberates us from sin, making it possible that we can reconcile ourselves in love with our God and others. In this way, we open our hearts to God with a new plan to make a new and loving relationship with our God. There is more to say about this important sacrament of Penance. We’ll continue next week.

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