It seems that when the New Year arrives people tend to come up with various resolutions. Perhaps some (like me) will look at the lingering spare tire around the waist and say that they are going to exercise more. Fat chance that this noble resolution will usually last for too long! Others may want to spend more time with family and friends. This may last for a while and then, typically, the hectic pace of life takes over and out of sight, out of mind. Still others seek to break a bad habit. They attempt to quit smoking or drinking, spend less time on the internet or watching TV, etc. This may be okay until those moments when we’re bored, lonely, frustrated, stressed-out or tired and we decide to light up, take a drink to relax, surf the internet or channel surf with the TV remote. What was it that they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?
I think that we as humans frequently desire a fresh start. We typically regret our transgressions and indiscretions—our sinful, selfish behaviors—and want to move on and start anew. Some denominations of Christians speak about being born again, referring to Jesus and His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3: 1-21). How is it that we are able to begin again? Will a simple act of the will enable us to change?
Jesus gave us the means by which we can become a new creation (2 Cor. 5: 17). By our baptism into Christ this relationship began. We were adopted by God as His children. Original sin (and any actual sin if we had reached the age of reason) was forgiven. We were filled with God’s Holy Spirit and Sanctifying Grace (God’s life) was now in us. We were made members of the Body of Christ—the Church.
But since that time of our baptism we sinned. Our relationship with God and others was damaged, perhaps seriously. What do we do now? Undoubtedly Jesus had a plan for this as well. He told his apostles after His Resurrection, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them . . . .” (John 20: 23) The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) is the means by which our post-baptismal sins are forgiven and is what can once again restore us to the purity of our initial baptism. We are made new by the continuing action of Christ working through His Church. And it involves more than our simple resolution to do better. God’s grace is present to forgive, to strengthen and to heal. We are given supernatural, Divine Grace in our battle with sin! We are made anew—a new creation in Christ Jesus!
If you make use of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation regularly, then I suppose you already understand its healing effects. However, if you are one of those people who fears the sacrament, has convinced yourself that you can go directly to God, has had a bad experience in the past and never went back, is carrying a burden around that just doesn’t seem to go away no matter what I do or is simply seeking a way to begin again, why not give confession a try? What is needed is a contrite heart and sorrow for any sins committed, a determination to try to avoid sin in the future, and faith in Jesus Christ that He can forgive my sins through the instrument of the priest.
Regular confession will do more for the body, mind and soul than any other soon-to-be-broken resolution. Its supernatural healing effects are far beyond what we can possibly do alone. As one who has sought out and frequented this sacrament for most of my life, I can attest to its divine healing power. I realize that I am far from perfect and that in my struggle with sin I have a divinely instituted means of experiencing God’s ongoing forgiveness, mercy and healing in my life.
Fr. Ed Namiotka