A few months ago I desired to take the final nine bulletins and devote them to the Sacrament of Penance. I envisioned nine different people writing about their experience of the sacrament and the joy it brings. Unfortunately, situations and events arose that prevented this from happening. So
now, with my penultimate bulletin remarks, I leave you with a resource that is posted in the USCCB website to hopefully reignite your desire to encounter our Merciful Lord in this wonderful and healing way.
God’s Gift of Forgiveness: A Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: “Peace be with you!” With these words, the Risen Lord greeted His frightened Apostles in the Upper Room on the day of His Resurrection. They were troubled, anxious, and fearful—much like each one of us at some point in our lives. Christ repeated the words, “Peace be with you.” But then He added, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:19- 23). What an extraordinary gift! The Risen Lord was proclaiming that all the suffering He had just endured was in order to make available the gifts of salvation and forgiveness. He wanted the Apostles to receive these gifts. He wanted them to become apostles of this forgiveness to others.
In the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, also called confession, we meet the Lord, who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in Him. In this sacrament, He prepares us to receive Him free from serious sin, with a lively faith, earnest hope, and sacrificial love in the Eucharist. The Church sees confession as so important that she calls for every Catholic to go at least once a year. The Church also encourages frequent confession in order to grow closer to Christ Jesus and his Body, the Church. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we seek forgiveness and repentance, let go of patterns of sin, grow in the life of virtue, and witness to a joyful conversion.
Since the graces of the sacrament are so similar to the purpose of the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI has said, “The New Evangelization . . . begins in the confessional!” We bishops and priests are eager to help you if you experience difficulty, hesitation, or uncertainty about approaching the Lord in this sacrament. If you have not received this healing sacrament in a long time, we are ready to welcome you. We, whom Christ has ordained to
minister this forgiveness in His name, are also approaching this sacrament, as both penitents and ministers, throughout our lives.
We pray that, through the work of the Holy Spirit, all Catholics—clergy and laity—will respond to the call of the New Evangelization to encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Come to the Lord and experience the extraordinary grace of His forgiveness!
God is ironic, isn’t He: I am sure that many of you have picked up on the irony of this note. Next weekend, our last Saturday confessions, we find ourselves in need to cancel the sacrament due to conflicts in schedule and an inability to find an available priest to cover. I know that this is not a message from God saying that the sacrament isn’t important, but rather, it is His way to remind us that life doesn’t always go as planned. It is my deep hope that our new Monday night confessional time (which starts October 15) will be more in line with your availability. It is also my hope that you will find healing with God and the Church when life doesn’t go as planned. May the Mercy of God be always upon you.