A talk given to parents whose children were preparing make their first Reconciliation
Your sons or daughters have reached the point on their lifelong pilgrimages to heaven where they now know right from wrong. This is a beautiful thing. Our ability to reason, to know right from wrong, and to choose the good and avoid the evil is what makes us different from the animals. It is this ability that allows us to accept the love of God and live with Him forever in heaven.
Unfortunately due to our human weakness we often turn away from God’s love. We choose to do the evil rather than the good. God however, is a loving Father and out of His love for us provides us an opportunity to turn back to Him. We call this the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Confession or the Sacrament of Penance.
Personally I find the Sacrament of Reconciliation one of our Church’s greatest treasures. The more I reflect on how much God loves me, as I look at all the blessings He has given me in my life but even more so as I gaze upon the cross, I realize how much He loves me. As I gaze upon the cross I realize that God sent his Son into this world to die for me. Looking at the cross I realize that He endured his torturous death on that cross for my sins. Our God out of love and justice sent His Son as the perfect sacrifice for your sins and mine.
At my baptism I was welcomed into the Body of Christ and all of my sins were washed away. God in His infinite knowledge knows that I am weak and will continue to sin after my baptism. In His infinite wisdom he sent His Son who not only died for me but left behind His Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to care for me even after He has ascended to His Father in heaven.
As I gaze upon the cross I must in all humility recognize how often I turn away from His love. In realizing how frequently I disobey God it is easy to be overcome by sadness but my sadness is overcome by a bright ray of God’s love waiting for me to come and be reconciled with Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Many of my friends recognize that they, like you and I, are sinners and need to ask God for forgiveness. Most of them however, do not see Christ’s healing light radiating from the Confessional because they feel they can do this on their own without going to tell a priest. While I understand why they may think this way I wish they would see what a treasure the Sacrament of Reconciliation is and how much they have to gain by frequenting the sacrament.
On a very practical level I think my friends fail to see the importance of going personally to apologize when we fail. Anytime I offend my father I know it is not good enough to simply call him and apologize but rather I know that I need to apologize personally to him. Isn’t this what you would expect of your children?
On a more theological level when I go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation I go face to face to God. While, yes the priest is sitting across from me, he is acting in the person of Christ. To understand this further we need to remember that when Jesus ascended to the Father He left us a Church with the power to forgive sins. The Bible tells us that Christ handed this power on to the apostles in the upper room on Easter Sunday when he visited them after after His resurrection and said “Peace be with. As the Father has sent me, so I send you,’ and when He had said this He breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23)
While it may appear that I am simply telling the human priest my sins, this is not the case. The priest is acting in the person of Christ, just as he does at Mass. When, at Mass, the priest says “this is my body … this is my blood” the priest, as an individual man, is not saying the bread is his body, no God, speaking through the priest is saying the bread is His body. Likewise when the priest says “I absolve you from you sins” it is not the priest absolving your sins but Christ.
We should also not forget that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, like all of the other sacraments, gives us grace, which helps strengthen us to help us from falling back into the sin. Sitting on the couch at home telling God I am sorry does little or nothing to help keep me from sinning in the future while going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation not only allows God to forgive my sins, it also gives me the spiritual graces to strengthen my weaknesses.
On a more human level I have to be honest many times I am tempted to commit a sin but don’t simply because I do not want to have to confess it in the confessional. While the perfect option would be for me not to commit the sin out of love of God, and avoiding sin out of fear of confession is imperfect, it still keeps me from sinning. Further in preparing to go to confession I examine my conscience which assists me in knowing what I have done wrong. By realizing what I have done wrong I am more aware and able to look out to keep myself from falling into those sins in the future. Lastly on an emotional level attending the sacrament leaves me feeling relieved knowing that I have reconciled with God and often times overwhelmed with His love.
Finally I ask you what do we have to lose? The Sacrament of Confession is the one place I can go where I know what I am saying is never going to be repeated. The sacrament usually takes no more than 10 mins. and while it requires humility (as Mother Theresa said “confession is nothing but humility in action.”) it requires no real skill. Lastly while the sacrament can be an emotional experience if we enter the sacrament in a spirit of love and humility it should be a painless experience. So I ask you what do we really have to lose by frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation?
Now I am sure many of you are sitting in your seat saying I know this already, what does this have to do with me and my child. Well I think it is helpful to review these topics because it will make it easier to talk to your children about the importance of Confession and to teach them what a treasure it really is. This leads to the question of what you can do to help your child see the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
First and foremost we must encourage our children to frequent the sacrament often. I was privileged to have parents who modeled this by frequently attending the sacrament themselves. I am fairly certain my parents could have told me thousands of times to go to confession but if I did not witness them go I doubt I would be going today.
I think we often only go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we have committed a mortal sin, but I think doing so is our loss. Personally I go to confession every two weeks. I like to think of myself as an average person, not Mother Theresa and not like the famous mobster Al Capone, yet every time I go I have plenty of things to confess. Not only will we ourselves be drawn closer to Christ but we will also set a good example for our children if we frequent the sacrament.
Second I think it is important for us to discuss the importance of the sacrament with our family. We must not be afraid to teach our children what a wonderful gift this sacrament is. I think it is important to explain the judicial aspect of the sacrament, that when we sin we must ask forgiveness from God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also the medicinal aspect, teaching the sacrament by explaining that the sacrament exists because God loves us, and wants us to be with him forever. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is really a sacrament of healing and I think by explaining to our children the healing aspect of sacrament, while not neglecting the judicial aspect, our children will come to see the beauty of the sacrament.
Often our children have stronger faith than we do. This is why Christ encourages us in the bible to have childlike faith. Our children will probably initially see the beauty of the sacrament. We simply need to demonstrate, by our example, the importance of going, encourage our children to make frequent reception, and be prepared to answer their questions as they arise.
In conclusion I think we can greatly assist our children on the way to heaven by instilling in them a great love for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By teaching them the beauty of the sacrament and modeling for them the great gift this sacrament is through our example of frequent confession our children will be well on their way to eternal life.
 Mother Teresa. Total Surrender. Cincinnati : Servant Books, 1985. Pg 100.