The Benefits of Going to Confession
Every year during Advent and Lent, the schedules for priests get pretty full. That’s because we are going around to a number of parishes for penance services. A few even now have full days of confession from noon until 8 at night; others do a more traditional service where people can come for a period of an hour or two. Ours is tomorrow night.
As a priest, it is humbling to celebrate this sacrament, as we are the ones who sit in both chairs if you will. As priest, you are there to help a person find comfort and experience the forgiveness of God. Confession isn’t spiritual direction or therapy (after all we’ve usually got a line of people), but it is a moment where a person is reminded of how they are loved by God, and you can have a brief conversation with them to help them see that, to think about something a little more deeply, or give practical advice to try to help them. Most important of all though, you sit there representing Jesus, and forgiving them in His name and the name of the Church. Confession inspires me in that I see such good in people and humility, because when a person goes they are saying “I want to become a better person.”
I also go regularly myself. Pope Francis once surprised people when he went to confession in public, apparently standing in line to go in Rome at Saint Peter’s. What a great message to send to people. I recognize when I look at myself that I’m a work in progress, always trying to become better, but also someone who very much needs grace and strength from the sacrament to help me with my shortcomings.
So, why should you consider going to confession? Well there are a lot of benefits.
I recently came across this article on the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a Catholic journalist. In her article on the benefits of confession, she writes:
Confession has benefits. Here are ten:
- Confidentiality guaranteed. There’s nothing like confessing your sins to someone guaranteed not to tell anyone else. Sometimes you need to talk in absolute confidence. Even under subpoena, a priest can’t tell anyone what’s said to him in confession. He can’t even hint at it. Now that’s confidentiality.
- Housekeeping for the soul. It feels good to be able to start a clean life all over again. Like going into a sparkling living room in your home, it’s nice when clutter is removed, even if it’s your own.
- A balm for the desire for revenge. When you have been forgiven you can forgive others. If the perfect Jesus forgives me, who am I to want to avenge the slights in my life. Think: “Why did they promote him over me? ’or “Mom played favorites!”
- Low cost therapy. It’s free, which makes it cheaper than a psychiatrist for dealing with guilt.
- Forced time to think. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. To examine our lives and acknowledge failings marks the first step of making things right with God, others and ourselves. Life can be more worth living when you ponder the meaning of your own life.
- Contribution toward world peace. Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, said that the imbalances in the world that lead to war and tensions “are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man.” Peace of soul leads to peace of heart leads to peace beyond oneself.
- A better neighborhood. Confession leaves you feeling good about yourself, thereby cutting back the inclination to road rage and aggressive shopping cart driving. With the grace of the sacrament you’re energized to, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more.”
- Realistic self-perception. Confession helps overcome arrogance when you have to admit you’re as much of a sinner as anyone else. It helps build tolerance for others ’perceived shortcomings.
- One more benefit of being Catholic. There are lots of benefits, including a sense of community, liturgical rites to help us encounter God in prayer, and the wonderful sense of humanity exemplified in the saints, from Mary, the loving Mother of God, to Augustine, the exasperating son of Monica. The sacrament that leads us to inner peace is among the greatest boons.
- Closeness to God. Confession helps you realize that you have a close connection to God and receive his grace through the sacraments. What can be better than knowing God’s on your team, or, to be less arrogant about it, that you are on God’s.
There are many more benefits too, but my hope is that during this holy season of Advent as we prepare for Christmas, you might consider coming to celebrate the sacrament. Our penance service is at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night. We also have it every Saturday at 3:30 p.m.; I’ll be starting at 3 p.m. the third and fourth Sundays of Advent. (As I said at Mass a couple of weeks ago it’s great to see more people celebrating the sacrament; I moved times up during the height of the pandemic and am keeping them earlier indefinitely at 3:30 p.m.).
No matter where you are at in life, never doubt God’s love for you and know His mercy is always there. He looks at you and me and always sees our potential – what this Advent season and upcoming Christmas celebration reminds us of too – and confession helps us to realize it.
Blessings, ~Fr. Paul
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