I love Lent. All liturgical periods in the Church are full of wisdom, love and the beauty of God, but Lent, followed by Easter, is the summit of them all. It is the supreme homecoming for us, with the door thrown open to all by the Father.
As migrant birds return to safety of familiar lakes and forests, we return to Jesus through the sacrament of Reconciliation. We become whole again.
Many misconceptions surround this priceless sacrament. What is worse, we project them onto our children. If we ourselves avoid Confession for years, our children will never appreciate this sacrament – and we will bear the heavy responsibility before God for their living in sin for years or even their whole lives.
Bits and pieces of (mostly outdated or twisted) psychological theories acquired via the Internet or tabloids can confuse non-practising Catholics in regards to even the simple concept of "sin."
'When the woman saw . . . that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.'
I know a mother who even teaches her daughter that something like "sin" does not exist at all. Therefore there is no need for reconciliation with God.
In many families the parents, fearful of "idealistic" Catholic attitudes, dish out their own version of "Decalogue à la carte." "Obey your parents " – yes, by all means. "Do not lie" – well, when you have to lie, you should lie. "Sometimes you have to deny your religion, so that someone's religious feelings are not hurt," etc. What sad, twisted rubbish!
Love of the sacrament of Reconciliation must be developed early, when sins are easier to confess – but the joy is just as great.
I have met parents who postponed their children's first Confession far into their teen years for fear they would develop "a constant feeling of guilt" and "an inferiority complex."
Most of these kids never went to Confession and would not even do it as adults. Those who did discover the sacrament of Reconciliation on their own, however, wish they had known it much earlier.
When you talk to them, what you hear is something like this: "How many mistakes I would have avoided had I known Confession when I was a crazy teenager!" or "It is only since I have been going to Confession every month that I got rid of my depression. I have had it for years. Why did my parents never take me to Confession? We were Catholics."
Or even this (from a young and suicidal drug addict): "God's love and forgiveness in this sacrament is for free; a visit with a counsellor costs at least 100 bucks."
Addiction to pornography, to drugs, to violence – all of these plagues of our times – can be overcome by regular, frequent and sincere Confession.
Confession strengthens character; it does not weaken it. It teaches us to reflect on our behaviour, to show contrition, to do necessary reparation and, in fact, frees us from the burden of guilt.
It teaches us that the joy of salvation is real and within reach, that it is God who does most of the work – he "washes us from our guilt," "he creates a clean heart in us," "opens our lips" even – so that once again whole, healthy and free, we can "proclaim his praise."
All we have to do is come, kneel and speak to Jesus through the priest – "have mercy on me" and "I acknowledge my offence," "my sin is always before my eyes" as did thousands of years ago King David, murderer and adulterer – and become a saint.