In my article the weekend of September 5th I spoke about how the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be a source of great grace and personal spiritual growth. The Sacrament purifies our consciences, strengthens our wills, and we receive grace to resist temptation and advance in the spiritual life.
This week I’d like to talk about how to receive all the graces that God wants to give us through the sacrament of confession. St. Augustine and countless other saints talk about the importance of knowing ourselves well. Through coming to know ourselves better, we realized how fallen we are, and how badly we need God’s help and grace to get through life. Frequent Confession helps remind us to rely on God to help rid us of our sins.
From God’s wonderful mercy He has provided us with confession which has the supernatural potential to change our lives and give us supernatural graces. This supernatural sanctifying grace, forgiveness, isn’t given to us just because we want to be forgiven, we have to accept forgiveness. The Church calls this “firm purpose of amendment.” This means that as one of my priest friends says, “confession is not like going to a car wash,” it means we approach confession with real sorrow for sins, and really intend to change our lives and begin again.
True sorrow of heart along with a purpose
of amendment snatches the soul from the
hands of the devil. ~St. Bridget of Sweden
*Below is a list of what we need to do to receive the wonderful graces which a soul can get through the sacrament of reconciliation.
1. Humble yourself
Pride is the root of all sin. If we hope to really grow and change, we need to humble ourselves. Humility is not being a door mat, or thinking that we’re worthless. That’s not at all what God sees in us. He sees someone He loves and who has the potential for greatness. If we think we hardly sin, and we think everyone else sins far more than we do, or that everyone else is “the problem,” then we can’t obtain that
self-knowledge that is necessary to grow. We need to learn how to be honest with ourselves and open our minds and our hearts to realize how we are blocking God’s love from our lives.
A soul does not benefit from the
sacrament of confession if it is not humble.
Pride keeps it in darkness. St. Faustina
2. We are all sinners in need of salvation
Let’s get real – we are all sinners and all of us have inherited the sin of Adam. All sin offends God, not just mortal sin, but venial sin as well. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with Him. (CCC #1440). Mortal sin or serious sin causes us to lose God’s gifts of saving grace and destroys the possibility of eternal life with God.
(cf. 2 Thessalonians 1-5:12). Confession is one of the greatest gifts God has given us and it produces in us a real hope of living a life of joy and an eternity of happiness with Jesus.
“God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him while
we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do
what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself
is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all
sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins,
he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say
that we have not sinned, we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us” 1 John 1:5b-10
3. Examine your conscience
When something is as vitally important as confession is, we should take the time to do it well. Since we sin so often, we should look at the choices we make in our day-to-day lives to see where we fall short of love. Now yes, there are times when we simply do not have the time to prepare as well as we should, but normally, we should make every effort to pray and reflect on our sins regularly. Keep an examination of conscience handy at home, doing a daily examination before bed is helpful too. Don’t be afraid to write down your sins. Do whatever you need to help you make a good confession. This is not something morbid or depressing but growing in our self-knowledge and becoming more aware of how we need God.
4. Make resolutions to change
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, right? That’s a good thing. The Church teaches us that we should do the same every time we go to confession. Change is hard, but a desire to change is the beginning step to growth. If our hearts are truly sorry, we will desire to stop offending God. Our Lord, who sees our love and blesses us in return, wants to help us to sin no more. He has sent the Holy Spirit to help us. Call on Him. Ask the Spirit to open your mind and to strengthen your desire to sin no more. We need to practice the 3 P’s: Pray, Plan (make a resolution to change), and Practice (do what we resolve to do, over and over again). Change rarely comes instantly, it is a process, it takes perseverance, getting up over and over, and not giving in to despair or laziness.
5. Embrace the grace and mercy of God
So many graces are available to us in the Sacrament. We can’t even fathom the amount of help God wishes to give us since His love and mercy is so great. The only thing that prevents us from receiving His love fully is our sins. Therefore, we must open up our hearts and receive the loving help of our Lord. Believe in His Mercy for you! He died for you. He rose for you. He lives now for you. His eternal plan is that you and I be saved and come to the eternal banquet He has prepared in heaven. No matter what sins we’ve committed, and no matter how many years we’ve spent turning our back on God’s will, He will always be ready to take you back.
“So let us confidently approach the throne of
grace to receive mercy and to find grace
for timely help” Hebrews 4:14.
God bless, Fr. Dennis