This article was written by Rev Thierry de Roucy and published in “D’un Point-Coeur à l’autre” #30 the French magazine of Heart’s Home in March 2000.
The best way to reveal mankind’s state today is found in God’s question to Adam when he sinned: “Where are you?” (Gn 3:9) Through this question, many people understand that they are lost. This question is addressed to the first man but it applies to each one of us too: “Where are you? Come back. I cannot bear that you stay so far... so far from me... so far from your happiness... .” Maybe you have heard this call or you are going to hear it: “Where are you? Your life has been purposeless for twenty... thirty... forty years. It does not have enough meaning!” Indeed, when you consider the Kingdom of God, life is worth only as much as it contains true and deep love. Outside of this, life is meaningless! The call to give oneself to God, to accept His love, is a call toward the sacrament of confession. Do not postpone reconciliation, this road to salvation; immediately entrust yourself to God, letting God drive.
Where to go? How to get prepared? Sometimes it is hard to find a priest. But we must be honest; are we very ingenious in finding means to satisfy many other needs, much less vital than our need for mercy? The one who is motivated will find the time and place to go to confession.
As with every serious event, we must be prepared to receive this sacrament. Turn to the Holy Spirit. He is the best help because He knows us and He knows God. Step by step, He will teach us to go to confession in truth and with confidence. For the moment we may not be approaching confession in this way, but this is not at all an obstacle to kneeling down. It is much more a call to supplication: “Holy Spirit, I pray to you, light the way for me! Show me how You want me to convert!”.
The Holy Spirit always answers. Not with a list of principles by which one must abide, but with a face, the Face of Christ. To say to us: ‘‘You have been created in His image and in His resemblance.” (Gn 1:26). This is the face that you are supposed to have, and now, take a look at the face that you have today! Our sin is what separates us from Christ. The way Jesus loves His Father, the way He loves men and the way He loves within the Trinity is so different from the way we love. Step by step, the Holy Spirit will reveal aspects of our life where the gap is big. He will not show us everything at once because we would not be able to stand it. The Holy Spirit reveals gently from confession to confession, the seriousness of our sins. Soul searching should not be an unhealthy introspection that results in withdrawal into oneself;,rather it should help us open our heart to the Savior. “The one who makes psycho -introspective analyses goes against the principles of a Christian confession.” Soul searching should not shut us in with our sins but should help us recognize Christ’s call and the meaning of our life. Confession means exposing ourselves to God in truth, and welcoming His mercy.
What am I going to say?
Sometimes when we arrive to speak to the priest, we know what to say. However, most of the time, we are ashamed and afraid of what the priest is going to think. Strangely enough, even if confession has already started, the Holy Spirit can interfere with what we had planned to confess and suddenly show a sin that prevented us from looking like the Lord.
When we start to confess, we are sadly aware that we are ill prepared to do it properly. It is so hard to deal with our own sin... It is so hard to recognize God’s call...our contrition is still so weak... But if the priest is honest, he acknowledges a similar incapacity: in a sense he feels unable to hear a confession, to give absolution... It is such a great mystery! But the shared weakness of the one confessing and the priest is also a sign of God’s grace... Our weakness leaves room for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Many people feel guilty for being afraid of going to confession, as if this fear was an expression of a lack of faith in God’s mercy. But this fear is not abnormal. In a sense, it is a way to take part in Jesus’ anxiety in Gethsemane or at Golgotha: “If only this cup could pass away from me”... The normal temptation is to avoid or to postpone the time when the truth will be revealed. It is not easy to bare our soul, to deprive ourselves of everything in front of the pastor. Like Adam, we would prefer to hide, to flee the look of the Father because indeed, we fear Him: this is the saddest consequence of original sin - the most awful inheritance from the first man. This fear is deeply rooted in our soul, and only the work of God’s grace in our inner self will give us another vision of God, like Maurice Zundel when he says: “God is a heart, only a heart, a whole heart!”
It is beautiful to start our confession as the Church proposes, saying: “Father, my Father!” My real identity is “son” rather than “sinner”. I am the lost son. And God is the father I love. He is waiting for me and is tired of waiting for me to find my way back after such a long time. The gentleness, the divine tenderness of the sacrament of confession appears in these words: “Father, bless me because I have sinned!” It is because we sin and not despite our sin that we ask God. Do not sentence me O Lord, I trust you! And the salvific words of the Father, His salutary words will heal me: “Where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more” (Rm 5: 20).
I knew a father once who used to bless his children every night by drawing a little cross on their forehead. One night, as one of his sons had been particularly difficult, he decided not to bless him, to punish him. But the son was expecting the cross more than ever. He started to cry and then to shout: “Daddy you are a liar!” The father arrived and asked his son to explain it to him: “Every night you say that you give me God’s blessing, but if it were the truth you would give it to me tonight because I have been unbearable and I need it more than ever to calm down”. The child had understood that we need God’s blessing, not because we are righteous but because we are sinners. Let us begin our confession with this wonderful sentence. “Father, bless me because I have sinned!”
One day a ten-year-old boy came to me to confess. For a long time he did not say a word. He was quiet. I did not dare hurry him or question him. Suddenly, he lifted up his face, turned to me and asked me: “Father, do you know the Himalayas?” “Yes, sure” I answered. “It is a big mountain range.” “So, you see”, added the boy, “my sins are like a mountain range higher than the Himalayas.” This child who deeply loved Jesus, was haunted, was made aware by the Holy Spirit of his poverty and the sin of our world. Then, he slowly started to cry and he told me: “I have sinned so much, Father, that I cannot confess it, I can only bewail my sins.” Such true contrition!
When God absolves through the priest, he takes away the sin from the sinner. He cuts the link between the sinner and his sins. “When He absolves, God throws our sins away over His shoulders”, Saint John Mary Vianney used to say. “Just as my candle has entirely burnt tonight, my sins have disappeared and will not appear again.” Moreover, with absolution, God gives new strength to defeat temptations. One must not be afraid to repeat each time the same sin until the Lord sets one free from it. Let’s knock at His door until He frees us. When the priest says the words of absolution, God forgives. He answers the priest’s prayer and the penitent becomes “holy and without fault before Him”... (Ep 1:4). And at this moment, the church is more prepared to welcome the coming of the Savior. At the moment of absolution, all the chains that made us slaves disappear, and we become free. The love of God, shown in His forgiveness, gives us the freedom of the Saints... When one regularly welcomes absolution, life changes step by step... The penitent takes on the white dress of the Lamb’s Wedding, to live more spiritually. Finally, use the ministers of God’s mercy: in giving Christ’s forgiveness, they will no doubt discover a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit, and each day, they will be more and more satisfied in their vocation as priest!