By Mary Lou Rosien
At the end of a long, dirty winter, we like to pile the children into our car and go to the car wash. The children find it thrilling, a little scary, and really cool! It reminds me a little of the need to go to confession regularly. None of us wants the dirt and salt to destroy our cars, and yet, do we think about our souls in the same way?
Do we allow sin to build up and destroy the beauty of God’s grace and life within us? My family has found that making the Sacrament of Reconciliation a family affair can be like the car wash, thrilling, sometimes a little scary, and really cool!
1. “The family that prays together, stays together.” Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation brings our family closer together. We confess our shortcomings to the priest, seek forgiveness, offer contrition, and are absolved of our sins. We find it is easier then to ask for forgiveness from the other members of our family.
2. We are strengthened by Actual Grace and renewed by Sanctifying Grace. Actual Grace helps us to make good choices and strengthens us against the temptations of sinful behavior. Sanctifying Grace brings God’s life back into our souls. We are then united to Him. When we go to Reconciliation as a family, it unites us all to the Lord and thereby to one another.
3. We develop good habits. Going to confession can be a little scary at first, but like anything else, if we do it often, it becomes comfortable. As role models to our children, we have an obligation to demonstrate appropriate behavior. Frequent confession can help them attain heaven. This way, they see the Sacrament as a normal part of Catholic life.
Frequent confession also helps us to develop and maintain an informed conscience. Think about it this way, if a child misbehaves and is not held accountable, she will think her incorrect behavior is acceptable. So it is with humans of all ages and sin.
4. We are made strong by putting on our armor against a world full of temptation. I see confession as a gift. It is waiting for all of us, to strengthen us against the evils of the world. Yet, many of us kick the gift under the couch like Aunt Fannie’s Christmas fruit cake. We ignore it, put off opening it, fear it, and some even resent it. I have heard, “Why do I have to tell a priest my sins? I can just tell God I am sorry.” In Reconciliation, our contrition is made perfect. We are assured forgiveness, and we are reminded to thank God for it. This helps us grow in humility and decrease in pride. We are not, “telling our sins to a priest.” The priest is taking the visible place of Christ; Christ is there. We can also receive wonderful guidance to help us overcome our sinful behavior. The world is filled with good and evil. We need all the strength and wisdom available to us to continue on the path of holiness.
5. Accountability helps us to change behavior. Nothing inspires us to change our behavior better than having to give someone an update on how much progress (or lack of it) we are making. God gave each of us the particular weakness we have. He knows our struggles and He loves us for trying to grow in holiness past them. If every month (suggested), or week (wonderful) or year (required according to Church law, Catechism 1457) we have to account for our actions, we may be better inclined to try to change wrong behavior.
6. The Sacrament of Reconciliation saves marriages and family relationships. A wise priest told me once that when one person in a marriage sins, the effects are felt by both, because they truly are one. Troubled marriages can be healed, good marriages made great, and great marriages can find the strength to endure the difficulties that even great marriages must endure. As we are reconciled to the Lord, we are reconciled to one another.
So the next time we are at church and see all those shiny, clean cars in the parking lot, we may ask ourselves — Is my soul as clean as my car?
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