Prior to my conversion in 1971, I was what you would call a "good Catholic boy." I went to church because I was supposed to go, because it was good for me, and because I did not want to go to hell. But everything changed when I had a conversion experience during a prayer meeting in my parish. I knew Jesus as my Savior, Lord, and best friend. I saw the cross no longer as a nice statue but as a reminder of the suffering that Jesus went through for my sake. My whole life changed, and I can still say that my conversion was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Immediately after my conversion, two things became abundantly clear to me. First, I felt Jesus’ love and I loved him in return; second, I saw my sin in a new way. It’s this second discovery that I want to talk about for just a moment.
Before my conversion, when I went to Confession, all I could say was that I swore a few times and told a couple of lies. But after my conversion, the Holy Spirit began to show me sin in a new way. I learned that I was the one who sent Jesus to the cross. I learned that Jesus suffered and died for me. I also began to see how my life revolved around me: my golf games, my TV watching, my football playing, my getting my way.
Confession and the "New Man." This led me to change the way I went to Confession. Instead of just listing a few sins, I began to focus on the "old self" and the way it was opposed to Jesus. My confessions focused on asking Jesus to forgive me for always wanting my way and asking him for the grace to be the "new man" he wanted me to be. Prior to my conversion, I was like Peter or the prodigal son’s brother. I believed in Jesus, and I was not getting into any trouble, but I was missing out on a personal relationship with him. I was missing out on the potential of being changed into his image. My self-centeredness was blocking the path. After my conversion, my confessions were instrumental in helping me to draw closer to Jesus and to be transformed.
This issue of The Word Among Us is focused on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As our articles point out, this sacrament is crucial to our spiritual welfare. St. Teresa of Avila once said that our soul is like a beautiful crystal that shines when light hits it. But sin is like tar over the crystal, blocking out the light of Christ. It’s in Confession that the tar gets removed so that the light can shine again.
We believe that people like the thief on the cross, the adulterous woman, and the woman at the well were reconciled to God through a foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Luke 23:39-43; John 8:1-11; John 4:1-42). Their response was to give their lives to Jesus. It’s the same with us. When we are made right with him through Reconciliation, we too are moved to give ourselves to him. Why? Because we feel the power of God’s mercy uniting us with him, and that feels really good. May God bless you.