By WILLIAM CLARKE, Commentary | Published April 8, 2019
“I would like to ask you—but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his heart: when was the last time you made your confession? Everyone think about it … 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!”
When I was a little boy, the season of Lent meant we had to give up candy and sweets. Of course, we never had a lot of sweets anyway, but it was something that all the kids did during the liturgical season. Lent took on a somewhat adverse slant, namely giving up something you like. If we made it through Lent without cheating, we thought we had experienced a pretty good season.
But Lent is so much more. The church calls on us to follow the three traditional pillars of Lenten discipline: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We offer up our prayers in thanksgiving for the suffering and death that Jesus Christ endured for our salvation. We fast in remembrance of Christ’s 40 days in the desert. We give of our time, talent and treasure.
The disciplines allow us to put a proactive stance on the Lenten obligations. Sure, we can give up sweets or other pleasures as long as we are true to the purpose of Lent.
Sacrament of reconciliation
One of the best prayers we can offer up during Lent is to receive the sacrament of reconciliation as often as possible.
My first memories of confession go back to elementary school where the nuns paraded us down to the church for confession every Friday morning, whether we needed it or not. We would kneel in the confessional and the priest would slide back a wooden panel revealing a cloth to prevent the priest from seeing us, but we could hear his voice loud and clear. Then we would say, “Bless me Father for I have sinned.” We would recite our sins, receive a penance and make a sincere act of contrition.
Looking back on the experience I doubt if we needed to go to confession every week. We hardly knew what a serious sin was, but confession was a great source of additional grace.
Seniors and confession
There are seniors who might think they don’t need to go to confession as often as when they were younger because as one senior stated, “I’m a good person. I just don’t have the issues and temptations that I had in the past.”
That’s understandable, but keep in mind that the reception of any sacrament provides us with sacramental grace, especially the sacraments of reconciliation, the Eucharist and sacrament of the sick that we can receive frequently. The mere reception of the sacrament, regardless if the penitent has any serious sins, provides a wonderful opportunity to accumulate sacramental grace.
I urge all seniors to use the remainder of Lent and throughout the Easter season (Easter Sunday until Pentecost) to develop a renewed appreciation for the sacrament of reconciliation. Not only will you grow spiritually, you will also be able to thank our Lord for sacrificing his life for us. Consider going to confession once a week. Use the holy seasons of Lent and Eastertide as an opportunity to accumulate sacramental grace—something we can all use.
Lent is also a time to remind ourselves about our Easter duty to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist at least once a year, ideally between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost.
Lent also gives us the opportunity to cultivate a spirit of generosity. It provides an opportunity to share what we have and who we are with others. It puts us in communion with others and helps us understand that we are all members of the body of Christ. Think carefully about how you share your time, your talent and treasure during Lent and Easter.
Remember the words of Pope Francis about confession, “And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there.”
Bill Clarke serves as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.