Sacrament Matters: “Come back to this source of grace”

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Sacrament Matters: “Come back to this source of grace”

There is a need to “fess-up” to our bad behaviour which seems to be hard-wired in us. A generation ago the numbers of Catholics frequenting the Sacrament of Confession was much greater than nowadays. As Catholics threw off this practice, the secular world picked it up. We see, for instance, the proliferation of TV shows like Jerry Springer, Oprah, The Verdict, and Enough Rope, in which people publicly confess their sins or have their bad behaviour judged by a panel of somewhat dubious celebrity-moralists. People have an inherent need to cleanse their consciences, or to issue moral judgments on human behaviour. Such public forums, however, are never the merciful tribunals we seek, nor can they to provide the forgiveness we desire.

We all need to unburden our consciences, but we fear judgment and condemnation. We desire to unburden within the confines of merciful love. The Lord provides this space in the Sacrament of Confession—and this is what Christmas is all about. That’s right, Christmas is about the Son of God becoming human in order to free us from our sins and the bonds of death. The entire Gospel is about God’s merciful plan of salvation in which he liberates us from a sinful conscience, and the death that comes with it.
Pope Francis recently inaugurated the Jubilee of Mercy in which God’s mercy is manifest more fully in the life of every believer. Mercy is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” In fact, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.”

How, then, do we connect with God’s mercy? We come to Christ, repent of our sins, and receive God’s merciful forgiveness. Just as sinners came to Jesus for forgiveness, so too we come to Jesus through his ministers in the Sacrament of Confession. Pope John Paul II explains: “Confession is an act of honesty and courage; an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” We take medicine to heal our bodies from physical ailments; likewise we approach the sacrament of Confession to receive the balm of God’s grace for our spiritual sicknesses.

During this Jubilee of Mercy, I would echo the call of John Paul II: “To those who have been far away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving Love I make this appeal: come back to this source of grace; do not be afraid! Christ himself is waiting for you. He will heal you, and you will be at peace with God!” Christmas is a time of reconciliation with family and friends, and it is an opportunity for reconciliation with God. Let us approach Christ in the sacrament of Confession and receive the mercy of the Lord.

Dr. Christine Wood, Director of the Office for Evangelisation