The Sacrament of Confession, or Penance, or whichever name you prefer to call it, is not one of the most popular of the sacraments. I think that is because we just focus on the negative: our sins. We are embarrassed by them, and it takes a lot of courage and humility to admit them; to ourselves first, and then to Christ through the priest.
I have found this passage from the Letter to the Romans to be very encouraging, to see this sacrament in a more positive light, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We did not have to, nor could we, do anything to earn God’s mercy and love. God gives it to us as a gift, even while we are still sinners.
As you examine your conscience, before coming to Confession, also take courage from St. Ignatius of Loyola. He told his followers to make an Examen every night before going to bed, but instead of starting with our sins, he said to first identify, as specifically as possible, all the graces or gifts that God had given us that day. Then look at how we had misused, neglected or even refused those gifts. That is how we sinned that day, but we begin by recognizing God’s loving presence in our lives each day.
This sacrament is called Confession not only because we confess our sins. It is called Confession primarily because we are confessing our faith in God’s love and mercy.
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- Father Solanus Casey beatified in Detroit, Pope Francis calls him “humble, faithful” November 18, 2017