That joke was a lot funnier when I was ten, but at least it goes to show that the priest never knows what to expect in Confession. By the time you read this, our second graders will have come to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. It is always an exciting time for them, but they can also be rather nervous. Come to think of it, the same applies to many adults. The sad part is that many adults forget the excitement and just think of Confession as something to be nervous about. But since Lent is an important time to offer the infinite mercy of our God, then this is a good time to encourage people to come and receive the Sacrament.
I can speak from my own experience in saying that Confession is a tremendous gift from God. There are times when I have some specific need, some particular sins that I know I need to ask forgiveness for. Having been through such times before, I can come to Confession with confidence that my confessor will not berate me or think less of me. There are also times when I see the sacrament as “fine tuning.” I may not feel like I’ve been all that bad, but I know I have failed here and there. And I find that if I go more than a month or so between confessions, I start to feel as if something is just not right. The grace of the sacrament helps keep me focused on Christ, and my own self-centeredness gets in the way if I wait too long. So even if we are not aware of any significant sins (and all of us have them if we look closely enough), Confession is a chance to renew ourselves in our life of faith.
I know that while I am talking about going to Confession regularly, there are many who have not been there in a long time. I remember shortly after I was ordained, when I was 26 years old, that I had someone who hadn’t been to Confession in over thirty years. Now that I’m 57, I don’t expect someone whose last time in the sacrament was before I was born. But the longer the time someone has been away, the more thankful I am to have that person come in. If it has been a long time, I try to make the return to the sacrament as easy as I can. In fact, I try to do more than to make it easy; I try to make it a joyful occasion. A return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after years of absence should be a time of celebration.
So during this holy time of Lent, come and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with us. And for the young boys out there, please tell me right away if your nickname is “Peanuts.”