Last night before I fell into a peaceful cloud of seven hours of continuous sleep — and before my beautiful, devout wife began her stop-and-start routine of short naps and nursing our 5-month-old (occasionally doing both at the same time) — we had our nightly summit meeting where we went over the schedule for the next day and the rest of the week.
I have no doubt that many families have it worse, but there is a lot of, “While I’m cooking dinner, after you get the baby from the babysitter, if you drop Olivia off at softball practice, I can pick her up while you run Jacob to his game.”
Spring is crazy. I’ve written that blog before.
But last night, as we went over our schedule, our conversation centered around something much more important than juggling practices and games and dinner. We need to get to confession.
We’ve been fairly successful in keeping a New Year’s resolution we made at the start of last year, when we agreed that, as a family, we would go to confession once a month. Certainly there have been hiccups, but for the most part, we have been faithful.
We generally go Saturday mornings; a nearby parish offers reconciliation weekly, and if we get there early, we can beat the rush. Jacob (our rotten-but-adorable 6-year-old), who still has nearly two years before his first confession, refuses to be left out, as he proudly walks into the confessional room for his monthly blessing.
Going to confession regularly has strengthened our faith as a family as it has shown our children that the sacrament is tremendously important. It has also strengthened our marriage as we not only work to hold each other more accountable, but we work on the sins (impatience, lack of gratitude, etc.) that all couples commit against each other.
While I was weighing conversion to the Church, the confession of sins to a priest was certainly a sticking point, and this passage was partly the reason:
“If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 Jn 1:9).
If taken by itself, it appears St. John is saying I don’t need to find a parish holding confession, and I certainly don’t need to wait in a long line to acknowledge my sins to God. I don’t have to make an appointment and waste a beautiful spring Saturday talking to a priest about all the bad stuff I’ve done lately.
As I’ve come to learn, the rest of Scripture gives us context. Allow Jesus to clarify.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you. … Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:21, 23).
So Christ commissioned his apostles, whom he sent to establish his Church, to forgive sins (or to retain them), just as he had. But how would the apostles know whose sins to forgive unless the faithful 2,000 years ago were confessing them?
So Saturday, wedged somewhere between the opening day parade for Olivia’s softball league and her morning/afternoon doubleheader, we are planning on confessing the sins we have accumulated over the past month. Mine are many, but they will soon be absolved.
Our pastor, Father Bill Sullivan, tells the children in the parish that confession “is like getting a hug from God.” I’ve spent the last month pushing him away. It’s time to reconcile.
I’m ready for that hug.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.