The Word Among Us

Lent 2017 Issue

A Practical Guide for Going to Confession

Drink from the Well of God’s Mercy

A Practical Guide for Going to Confession: Drink from the Well of God’s Mercy

Come and Drink!

Preparing for Confession

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God offers us limitless forgiveness and healing. He knows our sins long before we recognize or confess them, but he waits for us to come to him—just as Jesus waited for a woman by a well in Samaria (John 4:4-42).

In the story, the woman meets Jesus as he is sitting by a well. He asks for a drink, and begins to hint at who he is and what he wants to do for her. Next, he offers her “living water” that will quench her thirst forever. He tells her that he knows that she has had five husbands and is living in adultery with a sixth man. Even though she feels exposed, the woman isn’t ashamed; she is in awe. She recognizes Jesus as the Messiah—the One who came to save her and not condemn her.

Like this woman, we too are thirsty for God. We too carry the burdens of sin. But Jesus knows our struggles, just as he knew hers, and he wants to set us free. He waits to meet us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that he can give us a drink of the living water of his mercy.

So how can we drink from this well of grace? We prepare, confess, and leave our sins behind.

Sometimes we can’t see our sin until we view our behavior through God’s eyes. We need the Holy Spirit to help us recognize how we have sinned. Take a minute to pray, “Lord, help me to see what you see.” Some sins may immediately come to mind—others may be less obvious. Using the examination of conscience on the next page, ask the Spirit to help you search your heart. Where do you sense God calling you to repent? Remember, Jesus will never condemn you; he is always ready to forgive you.

Whether it’s been a week or a decade since your last confession, you can still feel uncomfortable admitting your sins. But this is exactly where the healing begins. Just speak to the priest honestly, and answer any questions he asks. After offering you some encouragement, he will give you a penance to help you continue turning toward God and away from sin. He will ask you to say an Act of Contrition, like the one on the following page. As you hear his words, “I absolve you. . . . Go in peace,” know that God himself is speaking these words of mercy to you.

Leave your sins behind.
Leaving Confession, you choose to accept God’s forgiveness and to live differently. By God’s grace, you can leave your sins behind and live in a new way that’s a little more loving, a little more holy, and a little closer to Jesus. And you can rejoice, because God has made you new again!

Search Me, O God

An Examination of Conscience

Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Jesus helped the Samaritan woman to see what was missing in her relationship with God. What is he helping you to see?

• Do I honor God on the Sabbath by going to Mass and participating fully?
• Do I neglect my relationship with God by prioritizing my own pleasure over prayer or Scripture reading?
• Have I misused the name of God by swearing or cursing?

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)

Jesus helped the woman recognize sin in her relationships. What is he showing you?

• Do I honor and love my parents as God commands?
• Do I love and care for my spouse and children as I should?
• Am I faithful to my marriage or religious vows?
• Do I view pornography or give in to lust in other ways?
• Have I acted impurely, either alone or with someone else?
• Have I spoken hurtful or untruthful words?
• Do I need to forgive someone who has hurt me or apologize to someone whom I have hurt?
• Am I jealous of someone else’s success or possessions?
• Have I taken something that doesn’t belong to me or withheld money from the poor and needy?
• Have I harmed my body or anyone else’s through violence, substance abuse, or neglect?

Act of Contrition

My God,
I am sorry for my sins
with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
—Rite of Penance, no. 45