Growing up, reconciliation was something I always dreaded. I didn't understand why I had to tell a priest my sins when I could just communicate them directly to God. Looking back, I really didn't have much to confess to the priest, it was probably the most innocent confession he ever heard. Yet, I remained nervous about going. My childhood-self saw the purpose of reconciliation as a shaming process: a practice designed to make you so embarrassed about your sins that you never commit them again because otherwise you have to tell the priest again and that would just be downright humiliating. Really, it’s no wonder I feared confession so much!
When I was in junior high, I remember my older sister coming home and sharing the view her friend had on confession, that confession was like erasing a dirty chalk board. I liked this metaphor because it was one I could understand. The priest absolving your sins was like walking away cleansed, free from the marks that had been there before. And there was nothing shaming about this process: chalkboards get marked up all the time, of course they had to be cleaned! While this metaphor might not exactly encompass all aspects of reconciliation, it was a metaphor that I was able to understand at the time.
Human relationships are broken all the time because we are imperfect beings. It is in our nature to get upset, to disrupt a harmonious relationship or end up hurting someone. This does not mean that we are oriented towards this end but that these things happen, and it is not necessarily something we have to be ashamed about. Rather than being ashamed, we ought to work towards fixing these broken relationships: seeking forgiveness and moving forward. This same concept applies to our relationship with God.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a way of cleansing our relationship with God. God loves us so much that He sent His only son. Jesus carried the weight of our sins on His shoulders and through His Passion, the doors of Heaven have been opened for us. To be able to enter fully into Heaven, however, we must be in a state of complete grace, a state of sin-lessness. Reconciliation is a way of entering into that state, even though it may be temporary. It is a way of deepening our relationship with God.
Many Catholics seems to lie in two different categories: either it seems as if they are going to reconciliation every day or they only go when obligated. For some, reconciliation is a sacrament that evokes fear while for others, the graces of the sacrament are truly a joyful, or freeing experience. Although there is no right or wrong amount of times to seek Reconciliation, we need to make sure we are not comparing ourselves to our neighbor but doing what is right for our faith life.
As Catholics, we have an obligation to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the five precepts, or duties, required by Catholics. These precepts are outlined by the Catholic Church in order to “guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor”.
In my experience, Reconciliation is an especially rewarding experience when you are struggling with something in regards to your faith life or your relationship with others. It allows you to take a deep breath, acknowledge your wrong-doings and move on, striving to do better. Even though the fears of my childhood self sometimes creep up, I try to remind myself that Reconciliation is not about being ashamed, it is about striving to understand and do God’s will, and that is not something to be scared of!
Reconciliation is particularly pertinent as we enter the Lenten season. Lent provides a time for us to evaluate our lives, figure out what is holding us back and try to form new habits going forward. Reconciliation is a perfect complement to a sacrificial exercise. There may be times when we fall, but what matters is that we dust ourselves off and try again. With the beginning of Lent, I’d encourage all of you to seek out the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are blessed to have many opportunities to attend on our campus. Also check out the Campus Lenten Opportunities.