By Chris Sparks (Apr 2, 2014)
I was asked one time by a friend, "Why do you believe in the Sacraments? Have you ever felt anything when you went up to receive Communion?"
I said, "No, I believe in the Eucharist because I trust the Church. I can't recall any time when I really felt the effects right there after receiving. But I have felt the difference after going to Confession."
And I'm not alone. I've heard or read a number of stories of people going to Confession and coming away with lightened loads. They know their sins were forgiven, that the Blood of the Lamb washed them clean. They know that they stood beneath the Blood and Water pouring forth from the Heart of the Merciful Jesus, and that they are as new creations all over again.
They know this because they've felt the peace which passes all understanding, when the leaden, yellowing weight of the world is lifted and life regains its freshness, its clarity, its liquid beauty, a world renewed because the beholder has been brought back to life again. As St. Faustina recorded in her Diary, Jesus explained:
Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God's mercy! (Diary, 1448).
Yes, it can be terrifying to voluntarily tell another human being the worst secrets of your soul. Yes, it can be difficult to expose your inner darkness in the light of day, even in the most confidential of circumstances, and especially when you're confessing to a priest in a pew with the long line of your fellow penitents seemingly so near at hand. Yes, it can be mortifying; it can be crucifying; and so it can be life-giving. Scripture promises us "For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light" (Lk 8:17). God already knows all our sins. He was there. He loves us still, remembers us still, waits for us to repent, and turn again, and be saved.
Want proof? If God had abandoned you, had completely turned His back upon you, then you would have ceased to exist. Every moment of our existence depends upon His continuous choice, His will to love us into being again and again and again. We are here because He knows us and loves us. We are here because God desires us to be. Never doubt that you are forgiven, always and completely forgiven, to paraphrase Doctor Who. We need only ask for that forgiveness, to repent and turn again to Jesus and allow ourselves to be saved, then to lean upon His strong right arm and begin again the long journey home to heaven, to holiness, to hope.
Need more? Jesus said to St. Faustina:
The flames of mercy are burning Me — clamoring to be spent; I want to keep pouring them out upon souls; souls just don't want to believe in My goodness. (Diary, 177)
My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does — that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you should still doubt My goodness. (Diary, 1486)
I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy. (Diary, 1588)
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible and the Church and 2000 years of Christian Tradition and the saints and the angels and all of creation speaks of His mercy, now and forever. He knows all, sees all, forgives all sins, loves all His creatures, and waits for us in the tabernacle and the confessional, hidden behind the appearance of bread, wine, and priest.
I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest ... I Myself act in your soul (Diary, 1602).
... [M]ake your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest it is that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light (Diary, 1725).
Pope Francis has been calling us all back to Confession, saying:
Everyone count, everyone say 'when was the last time I went to confession?' And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, He receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!
And Pope Francis has led the way:
So go, find Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession. Be made clean this Lent by the love of the Lord, mediated through His Mystical Body. Go! Trust in the promises made by Jesus; trust in His goodness; trust in His love. He waits for you, longs for you, to give you life in abundance.
To learn more about the graces available to those who confess their sins and perform the other acts asked by Jesus as part of the celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy, see here.