As you may recall I spoke at the Flame Ministries International 23rd Annual Congress in January this year, and I promised to upload a transcript of my presentation. The presentation was done in two parts of the weekend of the Congress, but for ease of reading I've decided to break it down even further and split it up into five parts. Today you'll be reading my introduction to the topic and about the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
* * * * *
Introduction – Reasons to come home…
If you’re reading this then you've probably been away from the Catholic Church from a while and you’d have your reasons for that. What you need to be assured of, however, is that no matter how long you've been away and for whatever reason(s), no one is going to judge you for it, nor is anyone going to think any less of you for it. There is good news: no matter how long you've been away, you’re always, always, always welcome back and needn't worry about any sense of unwelcome that you may be thinking. There are very good reasons for you to come back.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” and if you’re thinking about coming back to the Catholic Church, then congratulations; you've already made that first step! Consider this pamphlet a traveller’s guide. This is, after all, your faith and your faith journey, and like in all classical tales about a journey to a place or a journey of self-discovery, there is always a companion. Your companion in this journey of faith is Jesus Christ. He will walk alongside you and perhaps at times carry you. Place your trust in Him; He will lead you home.
“’Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’” – John 14:1-4
You will always have a home in the Catholic Church.
1. Reconciliation (If you've been away a while...) Catholics are immensely blessed to have a place where we can go to examine ourselves, our shortcomings, and our failings, confess them to Almighty God and receive absolution. Reconciliation means a clean slate; we restore our relationship with God and the Church. If you've been away from the Church for a while and you’re thinking about coming back, it’s definitely a good idea for you to go to confession (referred to as the ‘Sacrament of Penance’ or the ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’).
“Why can’t I just confess my sins to God? Why should I have to go to a priest to have my sins forgiven?”
The thought of going to confession after such a long time away can be a bit daunting and regardless of how many sins you've committed and what type of sins you've committed, confessing them to a stranger can be unsettling for anyone, even those who partake in this sacrament frequently. There are a couple of things to bear in mind:
i. the Sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted by Jesus Christ himself and it was His desire for His followers to have a place to go to confess their sins and be healed of them.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
ii. Jesus Christ gave authority to men to forgive sins.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’" – John 20:21-23
“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” – James 5:16
Getting to confession couldn't be easier. All parishes around the world have set times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and finding out these times can be as easy as doing a Google search for a parish in your neighbourhood, following the link to their website (most parishes have a website these days) and looking up their times for Reconciliation. If the times for Reconciliation don’t quite work for you (and let’s face it: we all get very busy and at times it might be difficult to set aside half an hour to an hour on a specific day), you can approach the parish priest in person or call the parish centre to make an appointment for confession. Priests are bound by Canon Law to cater for the individual needs of the penitent (that’s you) so that your confession may be heard at a time that suits you (Can. 986 §1). It would be a good idea to explain to the parish priest prior to the confession that you haven’t been to church for a while and that the same could be said for attending confession. The priest will be all but too happy to guide you through the steps of confession if you need a refresher.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
* * * * *
More to come. Stay tuned!