How often do you hope it won’t be the same priest in case he might remember you? How often does the devil, the great discourager, tell you that you are wasting your time so give up going to confession? How often do you feel you are fighting a losing battle with sin in your life?
Struggling with Confession
We all have these same feelings, fears, doubts, discouragements and judgements. We become burdened with the weight of our sins and we feel it is useless to go to confession again with the same list of the same sins.
God Never Tires of Being Merciful
The first Sunday after his election, Pope Francis said, “We get tired of asking God for mercy, but God never tires of being merciful”. I think the Holy Father has pointed out a very real challenge for us all. Speaking both as a priest and a penitent, his words make great sense.
The Lord comes to take away our sins
The Pope knows how difficult it can be to live in the midst of the struggle with sin in one’s life. He knows that we can become terribly discouraged and fed up. This can be made even worse when we don’t accept the mercy of God for our past sins. I can remember going to confession once, and the priest said to me that I had carried all my old sins back into the box with me. Even though the Lord had forgiven all the sins of my past, yet I had held onto them, so that each week in confession, I kept repeating the old sins. He asked me, “Do you believe in the power of Jesus to forgive you your sins?” I said, “Yes”. Then he asked me why was I still clinging to them? The Lord comes to take away our sins and very often we don’t allow Him to do that. We go after them again and carry them with us as old companions on the road. When we don’t allow the Lord to take away our sins, we can become even more tired of asking for mercy.
Our tiredness of asking for mercy
The Pope is asking us to reflect upon our tiredness of asking for mercy. He wants us to focus on God and His mercy. He wants us to see confession as a sacrament of love rather than a torture chamber we fear. Too often we look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation only from our own point of view, when all the time we are being asked in the life of the Church to see things from God’s point of view. We only see our sins and not our loving Father waiting for us.
The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever
Recently, before publicly going to confession himself, Pope Francis said, “The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever. It has no end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives the strength to rise and begin again, for through forgiveness, the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. We all know it: our Father never tires of loving and his eyes never grow weary of watching the road to his home to see if the son who left and was lost is returning. We can speak of God’s hope: our Father expects us always, he doesn't just leave the door open to us, but he awaits us. He is engaged in the waiting for his children.”
Sinners can't earn Mercy
These words remind me of words spoken by Saint Pope John Paul II, “We must not think that it is the sinner, through his or her own independent journey of conversion, who earns mercy. On the contrary, it is the mercy that impels the penitent along the path of conversion. Left to ourselves we can do nothing. Before being man’s journey to God, confession is God’s arrival at the person’s home”.
I confess to Almighty God
I have been reflecting lately on the fact that when we come together to pray at the Holy Mass, the first thing we do is to publicly admit that we are sinners. We say “I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts, and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do” and we blame no one else for this situation expect ourselves for we say that we have done all this through “my own fault”, indeed through “my own grievous fault”. We can only so publicly admit that we are sinners because we believe in mercy.
If we didn't believe in mercy then, like most of the world, we would either take pride in our sins or deny they were sins. Without mercy, our sins would indeed crush us. But praised be to God, we know that there is infinite mercy with God. That is why we must never get tired of asking for mercy. Mercy is our only hope of becoming people who can live in the freedom of the children of God, free to love as we ourselves are loved by our merciful Father.
In the likeness of God
We can only love each other when we relish the mercy of God in our own lives. As the Pope reminds us, “From the heart of the person renewed in the likeness of God comes good behaviour: to speak always the truth and avoid all deceit; not to steal, but rather to share all you have with others, especially those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be meek, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to gossip which ruins the good name of people, but to look more at the good side of everyone. It is a matter of clothing oneself in the new man, with these new attitudes.”
Never tire of asking for mercy
Never tire of asking for mercy, never become discouraged in your fight against sin and selfishness. The Lord is victorious over all the forces of darkness and sin. He is our hope and our mercy. Rejoice in God’s mercy and ask for it more and more each day.