“My friend, I weep because you do not weep.” (Saint John Vianney).
The other day, a married couple who I know were having a conversation about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
During their conversation, the husband asked, why it was necessary to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. After all, he commented, surely the Sacrament is only truly necessary just before we die – that way our sins will be cleared away and we shall be saved.
And I have been thinking about the answer to that husband’s question over the last few days...
You see, there are really three responses that could be made to that question…
The first – and simplest – response to this very relevant question would be that the husband is correct. We only truly need to confess our sins in the moment before we die. And so, now I ask you – when are you going to die?
Of course, it is easy to see – from my question – that because “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) that regular confession is necessary... Therefore, although we might desire to confess our sins in the moment before our death, we might be prohibited from doing so. Perhaps we may die unexpectedly, or we may be unable to speak before we die (perhaps we will be unconscious), or we may not even be able to get to a priest – or have the priest come to us (perhaps there will be a traffic jam or a global pandemic or some other thing of that nature).
The second response to the question is the one that Saint Padre Pio gave when asked about the necessity of regular confession… He explained that if one were to clean a room and then lock it up for a week and return to it in a week’s time to check on it, there would be dust all over the room.
And so – Saint Padre Pio suggested – regular confession is necessary to keep the soul in a state of Grace and the allow the soul to build virtue and reduce vice through the Grace provided in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Saint Francis de Sales said, “All the Israelites left Egypt, but in the desert many of them had second thoughts and wanted to return. In the same way, some resolve to avoid sin, but they look back on Sodom while fleeing it. They give up their sins, but go right on talking about then, desiring them. If you want to live a devout life, you are required to stop sinning, but to lose your appetite for it.” Therefore, regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation ensures that we are more capable – through Grace – to regularly reject our sins and to stop sinning, to effectively give up our appetite for sin.
The third – and perhaps the most profound – response to this question is the response provided from the mouth of Christ Himself and demonstrated in the actions of the Saints… And that response is LOVE!
You see, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of LOVE and MERCY. In her Diary Entry 331, Saint Faustina wrote Christ’s words to her in relation to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, “When the priest acts in my place (during the Sacrament of Reconciliation), he does not act of himself, but I act through him. His wishes are Mine.” You see, the Sacrament of Reconciliation – like the Sacrament of the Most Blessed Eucharist – is a direct encounter with GOD HIMSELF. If we do not wish to encounter God more frequently on Earth in these Sacraments, how could we ever say that we wish to spend eternity with Him in Heaven?
And it is even more than that. You see, when we sin, we offend God – who is PERFECT LOVE. If we truly love someone and have made choices that have offended them, is it not logical to assume that we should ask them for their forgiveness and try not to offend them again?
Saint John Vianney would hear over 300 Confessions each day! One day – upon hearing a particular confession – he began to weep. When the penitent asked why he wept, he replied, “My friend, I weep because you do not weep.” And along the same vein, Saint Josemaría advised, “Turn to Our Lady and ask her – as a token of her love for you – for the gift of contrition. Ask that you may be sorry, with the sorrow of Love, for all your sins and for the sins of all men and women throughout the ages... ‘Acts of contrition, the more the better!’”
And in this way, I pray – for the gift of contrition – and for the Grace that can only be provided through regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.