Back when I was in high school, my confessions centered on a few lies, a few cuss words, and things like that. It was all I knew. But when God powerfully touched my life in 1971, everything changed. The Holy Spirit began to show me how self-centered I was. All I cared about was getting my way, enjoying my food, having fun with my girlfriend, watching my favorite television shows, and so on. Even though I went to church every week and received the sacraments, my life was primarily about myself, not about God.
After the Lord changed my life, I began to see my sin and the power of Reconciliation in a whole new way. I began to repent for the way I misled or manipulated people to serve my wants. I began to repent for the way I wanted to get my way all the time. I began to repent for the way I was so self-absorbed.
It used to be that I received the sacrament because I was told it was good for me—and I am sure it was. But in 1971, it became the most freeing practice in my life. When I go to Confession, I literally feel God’s grace freeing me and drawing me closer to him. Equally important, I feel him giving me the grace to put his plans and the desires of his heart ahead of my own.
An Action Step. As we look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation this month, I want to suggest an action step. I want to ask you to get into the habit of examining your conscience every night before bed and repenting of any small, venial sins you may find. Repenting on a daily basis is a simple but powerful exercise.
Of course we should receive the sacrament as often as we can—and we need Reconciliation in the case of mortal sin. But these short moments of personal examination and repentance can put us in touch with God’s power to forgive us. This is a great way to deal with those pesky sins that slip out of us—an unkind act, for example, or an impatient word or a harsh judgment against another person.
I make it a point to examine my conscience and repent a few times a day—at the beginning of my prayer time in the morning, as I am saying my final prayers before bed, and during the day when I catch myself doing or saying something stupid. I tell the Lord that I am such a sinner. I tell him that I am sorry, and I ask him to forgive me. I tell him that I need his grace to change. I tell him that I don’t want anything to get in the way of our relationship.
So try to get into the habit of making a daily examination and repentance. I am sure the Lord will bless your efforts as he has blessed mine. I am sure he will draw you closer to himself. I hope you enjoy reading this issue on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May God fill you to overflowing every time you receive this sacrament!