Transformative Repentance

“From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Mercy offered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is transformative. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides this magnificent explanation on the grace of Confession:

 “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time, it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace” (CCC 1431).

A “radical orientation of our whole life” seems powerful language for entering a confessional (or room) with a priest and laying out our offenses. Spewing out a laundry list of “should have” and “should have nots.” Why not bring these directly to Jesus in prayer? Why involve a middle-man of sorts?  

There was a time I was petrified to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My heart raced, palms sweat, throat closed, and my feet wanted to sprint to the nearest exit. Honestly, I avoided it until the Holy Spirit nudged me to go, and there, Jesus made me laugh. 

First, the nudge, Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Next, the time the priest called me back into the confessional. After completing my Confession and opening the door to leave, I heard, “oh, wait, one more thing.” I am sure that’s happened to you before, right? Sweat formed on my brow as I made eye contact with the long line of people waiting for their turn! 

I sheepishly smiled at the kind folks staring back at me and slowly closed the door. The kind priest recognized my voice and wanted to share some exciting parish happenings with me. Although it didn’t seem the appropriate time (or place), a little spiritual insight sparked by grace helped it all come together, whereas I could recognize — God’s perfect timing and precisely the encounter I needed to overcome my fear. 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the love and mercy of Jesus, offered through the priest, In persona Christi, Latin for, “in the person of Christ.” A genuine encounter with Christ, who is eager to impart grace and wash away your iniquities and cleanse you from your sins (Psalm 51). Sure, it will be uncomfortable; that’s contrition! Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel reminds us that the Kingdom is now, and we want to be always ready to enter it when called.

As for that middle-man? I am grateful for the opportunity to encounter Jesus through the priest because I have yet to experience anything in this world, as sweet as the words, “The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.”

 Contact the author

Allison Gingras works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization as National WINE Steward of the Virtual Vineyard. She is a Social Media Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River and She is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who founded and developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV).   

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