US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Time for forgiveness

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It'd be nice to think that reconciliation is between us and God, but sacrament is important to our Catholic faith.

Guest blog post by Kevin Patrick Considine

It’s been a long time since I walked into a confessional. It’s sad, but true. And, among Roman Catholics, I’m certain that I am not alone in my absence from this sacrament.

It’s not that I don’t desire to be absolved of my sins and be reconciled with God and with those whom I’ve sinned against. But, it is somewhat intimidating to enter into an intimate conversation with a complete stranger who also happens to be a priest. If I am true to my role in the sacrament, I am to bear my heart and soul to him, flaws, stains, and all. Metaphorically speaking, I am to become naked before God as Adam and Eve were naked in the garden. I am to have faith in God’s graciousness, justice, and forgiveness and thus to hide nothing.

Oftentimes, this makes me feel like Martin Luther. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that my confession and absolution is between myself and God alone. No mediators allowed because Jesus himself is the ultimate mediator. Due to Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, the door is now open. My call, then, is to an individual, intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I can experience God’s grace, justice, and forgiveness in the innermost room of my home and spirit.

But I’m not Martin Luther. And I am neither Lutheran nor Protestant. I am a Roman Catholic who believes in the grace present in the sacramental system.

It is good that I pray and confess directly to God through Christ in private. But my religious tradition demands more. And that is an encounter with a flesh and blood human being who can represent, although imperfectly, God’s incarnate grace in relationship with me. As the Son assumed the fullness of humanity, God’s graceful presence is in the matter and form of the sacraments. It is also in the flesh and blood of all of the people involved in the sacrament.

This is a challenge and a point of inspiration in this second half of Lent: to return to the sacrament of Reconciliation and have faith that God’s grace works through imperfect (or even intimidating) people, particularly the clergy.

It can be inspiring to believe, as Holy Week and Easter approaches, that despite my sins, God continues to offer God’s self in grace and mercy, in justice and accountability. But most importantly, it is inspiring that God continues to offer God’s self in a deep love that is the foundation of all that exists and that seeks the transformation of everyone and everything into the divine image. And this transformation allows us to become small sacraments of salvation who are fully alive in the presence of the Triune Creator and who give life to others.

Guest blogger Kevin Patrick Considine is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology at Loyola University Chicago.

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Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.