Monday, April 12, 2010

A Little Reconciliation Reflection

I know I am such a geek, but I do so dig this liturgy class I'm taking.

I recently had to write a reflection on why I think the reception of the Sacrament of Penance among Catholics is declining. As Catholics, we are asked to receive the Sacrament at least once a year. Most do around Advent and Lent as common practice. Really, we should try to go more often than that, because let's be honest, if we only cleaned our houses or our bodies once a year...that would be just nasty. Why junk up the soul?

Of course, there is much debate as to why we have to go to a priest to confess our sins. I don't think I am naive- I know there are a lot of realities that play into why we would or not want to divulge our sins to a man. I also know, in some cases, we may even find ourselves having to forgive members of the Church because of human failure. This can bring a lot of hurt and trust issues to the table and reconciliation is a vulnerable business.

The reason for the Sacrament is biblical and something Jesus left us with; to go to one another and reconcile. And we do believe that in that moment of Confession, it is not the priest but Christ who forgives us and is truly present. (And if we believe in the Sacrament of Holy Orders that the priests receive, we believe that they are given special graces to help us in those moments of needing forgiveness).

I don't want to use this post to espouse reasons why I think participation in the Sacrament is declining. Sure, I have my theories. I will submit that we as a society do not understand the value of forgiveness, though we all crave it. We have video games, movies, wars, and laws that promote revenge, not forgiveness, and perhaps this translates into our view of God. Maybe we don't believe forgiveness can really be given so easily and freely.

I just realized in my reflecting that this is more of a complex issue than I realized- why don't we believe in the Sacrament of Confession? Why don't we seek God's Mercy often? And if we do, why do we go? Do we go because it makes us "feel good"? Because even that is not a great reason to do something. We often fall into sin because it makes us "feel good" too.

So this post is not to give any answers or even any witty commentary, really. I just wanted to share the question- why do we or don't we believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? And what about our culture helps or does not support us in this belief?

(I do know, however, we as a culture love free stuff! And God's Love and Mercy in the Sacrament is totally free! Just saying ;)

I suppose I've also got Mercy on the brain since yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday. It's always the 2nd Sunday after Easter and it is a day we recall this freely given Love and Mercy of God. It's kind of like the concept of Valentine's Day in some ways, I think. Like, we can express our love for others any day, but we particularly recall it on Feb. 14.

So too, Jesus' Divine Mercy is there each day for us (especially if you happen to live in a place with regular opportunity for Confession!) but we remember it in a special way with special devotion that day. We also recall St. Faustina and the messages and image the Lord gave to her about His Divine Mercy.

Lastly, I was able to witness God's amazingly real Mercy on Saturday as I gathered with friends to celebrate the marriage of my friend Dan to his wife Hannah. I know I've mentioned Dan in the past- he is one of my best guy friends from college who was diagnosed with leukemia last June. He has had a long year, with many painful moments, but God's mercy was so evident when we were able to gather and see him happy, healthy, and recovering on his wedding day...

...because the beauty of Mercy and Grace is that they are not individual gifts for just us. When we receive them, we in turn share them with others...

Free stuff for all! ;)

(ps- would love to hear your thoughts/comments on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like I said- total geek! ;)



Julia said...

a great discussion with a friend prompted by this post included the possibility of people not seeing the need for an intermediary in confession. To which I thought, as Christians we believe Jesus was/is our intermediary. We needed Him to be reconciled completely to God and we still need Him now. The priest acts 'en persona Christi' technically He still intermediates for us in that act...

also the idea of confession being personal and individual is an issue- that it just needs to be between us and God. But sin does harm the community. So in that moment of confession, we also believe we are reconciled to the Church as well. It's a communal act :)

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