Each time I move to a new place, there are two people that I need to find. The first is a great barber and the second is a great confessor. Finding these two critical people in my life is never easy.
There’s something particularly terrifying about my first encounter with a new confessor. Maybe you feel the same way. We’re both getting to know each other and I don’t know the style of the priest who’s sitting on the other side of the screen. Regardless of who he is, he stands in the place of Christ. My anxiety is almost always wrong. In fact, I’ve only had one “bad” confession in my 20 years of receiving the Sacrament. I’m treated with kindness, gentleness, and a profound sense of understanding.
That’s what happened a few weeks ago. I queued up after Mass and saw the priest enter the confessional. I thought that it was going to be a really tough sacrament, but something profound happened. It was a confession unlike any other I’ve experienced, and one that I won’t soon forget.
After confessing my sins, he asked me two questions. Are you repentant? Are you willing to do better with God’s help?
Those simple questions knocked me down and not because they’re the basic requirements for absolution. I’ve never had a priest ask me those two questions so directly. Without thinking, and without rehearsal, I gave an enthusiastic yes.
I go to Confession often, and I’m haunted by the idea that I might just be looking for a car wash, that I go just to get clean without the intention of conversion. I don’t think that any of us can have such an intimate, personal, confidential encounter with God and walk away unchanged.
Confession is the ultimate do over. It isn’t supposed to be easy and it certainly isn’t supposed to be a caning. Jesus went through an incomprehensible period of torture and humiliation: a process designed to not just break a man, but to annihilate him. How does He ask that I make it up to Him? A small act of penance and a commitment to do better.
How unfathomable is His love and mercy. How inscrutable is the mind of God that He would endure all of that and, in the face of my rejection of His love, He’d welcome me back with such a low bar: a prayer and a promise.
I shrink when I think about the power of that kind of love. How loved would Alison feel if I loved her with a single pure drop of that love? How secure would my children feel if every interaction I had with them started from that spirit of love?
There lies the true beauty of Confession. I meet Jesus in the Sacrament and come back to life. Pure love touches me personally, ready to completely transform my life, if only I let it.