We often remark at how quickly time passes. On 8th January the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marked the end of the Christmas season and, already, on Ash Wednesday, 14th February we will begin the Penitential season of Lent. And not so long after Easter, we shall be looking towards Advent 2018! Our Blessed Lord was very precise in His use of language. Looking beyond our comparatively brief lifespan on earth, towards Eternity, He underlined the urgent need for constant preparation, speaking of the unexpectedness of our coming before God’s Judgement Seat, death coming, perhaps, “...like a thief in the night…(1 Thess. 5.2)…you know not the day nor the hour…(Mt. 25:13)…tonight thy soul is required of thee…(Lk. 12:20)”.
The Liturgy of Ash Wednesday recalls sobering facts. As we are marked on our foreheads with a Cross of ash (prepared by burning last year’s palms) the priest or other person applying the ashes may say either, “Repent and believe in the Gospel…” (Mk. 1:15) or the more sobering, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19). The second formula may cause one to feel ‘uncomfortable’ but is, obviously, so very necessary in this world which, sadly, often lauds wealth, celebrity and power as criteria for a fulfilled life, whilst ignoring their power to distance or even separate us from God. A loving earthly parent will, although positively encouraging their children to be careful crossing the road, also point out the unpleasant, even fatal consequences of carelessness in doing so. Similarly God, out of Love for us, wishes us to recall that much of what is regarded as ‘gain’ in this world has the power to deny us eternal happiness. Unlike the world, which can be very unforgiving, Christ, knowing our fallen nature, gives us through His Church this period of the year dedicated especially to deeper examination of conscience and to trying to see ourselves as God sees us. Of course, this 40 day period should, quite definitely, not be our sole spiritual ‘MOT’ for the year.
The Good Shepherd ever calls us to Himself. Whatever our sins, He will welcome us back if we repent and return. He has given us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) as the normal means of making this return from Mortal and what are deemed ‘lesser’ sins. Through this wonderful Sacrament, available daily, if needed, in addition to the scheduled times, a Soul, dead in sin, may be restored to the Life of Grace. We must, however not fall into the error of thinking that Confession is reserved solely for Grave sin. Even one who has faithfully persevered in God’s Grace throughout life has need of the strengthening Grace of this Sacrament to maintain their Godward orientation.
It may take great courage and humility to go to Confession, overcoming Human Respect (i.e. ‘What will people think of me when they see me go into the Reconciliation Room?’). Sadly we can ‘transfer’ our own sometimes unforgiving nature to Christ. Yet the Scriptures are full of accounts of Jesus forgiving people, for example the woman taken in adultery and the penitent thief on Calvary. His many visible healings point towards His ability, as God Incarnate, to heal our invisible spiritual ills, i.e. sins. We never hear Him turn penitents away. Of course, to be forgiven, sorrow and determination not to sin again must go together. How often do we hear Christ saying, “Go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11)?
Why not, especially if it does not come easily, resolve to make a good Lenten Confession, as the first of many regular Confessions in the coming year, rather like having one’s car regularly serviced, rather than waiting for a major, more costly or dangerous defect to occur. The priest can answer any questions, however ‘silly’ we might regard them; nothing will shock him; as an Alter Christus, he is only too glad to continue Christ’s work of Reconciliation. Look out for details of our Lenten day of Penitence.
There is plenty of faithful Catholic literature on the subject. One publication, “Confession, A little Book for the Reluctant” by Monsignor Louis Gaston de Ségur, published by TAN, answers many of the fears that many, sadly, have of this Sacrament. Booklets about Reconciliation are available from our Repository. If you try this link you will find a wealth of helpful materials published by the CTS. Please God, the following line from Saint Alphonsus’ Stations of the Cross, will be our motive for repentance: “It is thy love, more than the fear of Hell, which causes me to weep for my sins.” (from the 8th Station: The Women of Jerusalem Mourn for Our Lord).
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church