“The Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk
of a face-to-face encounter with others…”
Do you ever wonder why it’s so important to go to priest for Confession?
After all, aren’t we already forgiven of our sins? Isn’t God’s love so great that all we have to do is ask him for forgiveness and it’s ours? Sometimes our Protestant brothers and sisters don’t get us. Sometimes we don’t get us. Why don’t we go straight to God?
OK, so I probably can’t give you every reason here just why we go to a priest for Confession, but here’s one thought I can’t get out of my head after this last weekend’s Confirmation Retreat: God wants us to be involved.
One of the most moving moments for me during the whole retreat was Saturday night, when we all got a chance to go to Confession, to lay it all out, not because God doesn’t already know our sins and want to forgive them, but partly because we need to admit them to ourselves. Waiting my turn to go, there were a couple of retreatants praying at the cross in the middle of the room. They were holding each other, there were tears, and there was comfort. Then there were three of them together. Then a fourth girl came in to share in the tears and joy. Soon enough, there were five of them, holding onto each other, silent, but sharing the freedom, the relief, of letting go and finding not only themselves, but each other, again.
I found myself thinking, this doesn’t happen if there is no sacrament.
This doesn’t happen if we just go straight to God and leave everyone else out of it. This doesn’t happen if God doesn’t ask us to meet him face to face in another person, to admit that we’re not perfect, and to just ask him to remember that we’re human and need him and need his forgiveness.
This doesn’t happen when we think our own sin only affects us, as if it’s some private affair. When we realize just what sin is, then we’ll see how beautiful it is that God lets us bring ourselves, together, with one another, back to himself. When we realize that sin is breaking the Father’s heart, that we turn our back on the only one who can really see through us and the only one who knows how deeply we hurt for love, then how glorious is it that he wants to forgive us by bringing us back together, face-to-face, eyelash-to-eyelash (that’s pretty much the root of the word reconciliation). When we realize that the most dangerous thing about sin is that it isolates us, makes us feel alone, makes us feel unloved, then there is no better way to be drawn back to each other, to the Church, to God, than that face-to-face encounter with another person who knows what it’s like to fall and to be forgiven, and to let them walk us, hand in hand, back to the Father.
In the end though, these words are too few to say what really happens when the heart is crying out, desperately thirsty for reconciliation, for forgiveness. I can’t tell you what was in the hearts of those five girls, huddled up together, but I can tell you this: we’ll only know for ourselves when we go for ourselves.