THE first path by which the Lord can begin to transform a soul is opened when that person, seeing themselves in the light of truth, acknowledges their poverty and need for Him in a spirit of humility. This is a grace and gift initiated by the Lord Himself who loves the sinner so much, that He seeks him or her out, most especially when they are enclosed in the darkness of sin. As Matthew the Poor wrote…
The sinner thinks that sin prevents him from seeking God, but it is just for this that Christ has descended to ask for man! —The Communion of Love, p. 95
Jesus comes to the sinner, knocking on his or her heart, with a hand that was pierced for their sins.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev 3:20)
Hearing this knock, Zacchaeus came down from his tree, and immediately, repented of his sins. It was then, in the confession of his sins in sincere contrition, that Jesus said to him:
Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:9-10)
The second path, then, by which the Lord is able to enter a soul and continue the work of grace is repentance, true sorrow for one’s sins:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt 3:4)
That is, they shall be comforted when, in true sorrow, they confess their sins before the Great Tribunal of Mercy, the Holy Trinity, in the presence of Their representative, a priest. Jesus instructed St. Faustina:
Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late. —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448
So today, brothers and sisters, hear the invitation—the strong call—to return with fervor and frequency to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Somewhere along the line, the idea took hold among many faithful that it is only necessary to go to Confession once a year. But as John Paul II said, this falls short of what is necessary to grow in holiness. In fact, he recommended weekly Confession.
…those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress” will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives. “It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Penitentiary conference, March 27th, 2004; catholicculture.org
There, he said, the penitent “lays bare his conscience because of the deep need to be pardoned and reborn.” Ibid. As St. Ambrose once said, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.” CCC, n. 1429 Both lead us to being born again, and again, which is why the Church also calls this the “Sacrament of conversion.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1423
Now, Jesus knows that we not only need to be forgiven, but need to hear that we are forgiven. I suppose you can confess your sins to your cab driver, hair dresser, or pillow. But none of them has the power or authority to forgive your sins. For it was only to the Twelve Apostles—and thus their legitimate successors—to whom Jesus said:
Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. (John 20:22-23)
And so, St. Pio once said:
Confession, which is the purification of the soul, should be made no later than every eight days; I cannot bear to keep souls away from Confession for more than eight days. — Archives, evangelizzare.org
Brothers and sisters, this Lent, begin the practice of making frequent Confession a part of your life (at the very least, once a month). I go to Confession weekly, and it has been one of the greatest graces in my life. Because, as the Catechism teaches:
…the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that, with the help of the grace of Christ, they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1423
So, don’t be afraid, brothers and sisters, to pour out your hearts before God in Confession. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE
Confession opens a pathway for grace to heal and restore the heart; frequent Confession opens the gates to holiness.
Blessed is the one whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven… with joyful shouts of deliverance you surround me. (Psalm 32:1, 7)
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