During my catechism classes for first holy communion, we were taught how to go for confessions and I remember back then our teacher (Whom I considered to be very wicked) telling us about the feeling you get when you have a good confession. As an 8 year old girl I had no idea of what he meant; thought he was in his own world. I mean how can I feel a certain kind of relieve after telling a priest (whom may know me very well and know my parents) all my little evil mischief. I concluded that day that my teacher wasn’t just wicked but also delusional (Forgive me Man.P but you did sound that way).
After five years of constant visit to the confessional I finally understood what he said to us that day. I had visited St. Dominic, Yaba for confessions in preparation for the Yuletide season, and I remember walking out through the main entrance of the church with a feeling I cannot describe. It was a feeling I had never felt in five years after confessions, a feeling of both relieve, peace, gladness and something else. It felt so good and strong that till this day I look forward to that exact feeling each time I visit the confessional and if I don’t get it I end up feeling so disappointed and sometimes would go in to repeat my confessions in a bid to tell what other sins I may have left out on purpose (Yes, I do that sometimes). Today, I can call that last feeling NUDITY, just as Ven Fulton J Sheen defined confession, NUDITY of the soul. Nudity for me because I had just stripped my soul naked before another confessing those little mischiefs of mine. Interestingly however is the fact that instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed thereafter, I am bathed in joy and relief from the realisation that I had only been naked before God who from the very start knew me through and through(cf. Psalm 139:1-3). The priest only acted as his channel of forgiveness and mercy, as he acts in the person of Christ.
I realised that one can only feel this way when one first acknowledges the need to strip before the God who created us. In essence, the first step toward achieving this feeling of joy and relief is the acknowledgement of our personality as sinners and the sins we have committed. Only the one who acknowledges his or her weakness can receive medication to be made well again. God is the physician of our souls and through the instrumentality of the priest(s) forgiveness is poured upon us. We cannot receive the mercy of God, who is the physician of our lives until we acknowledge we are sinners.When we acknowledge that we are not in right standing with him, we approach him for mercy and he heals us (cf. Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31, Matthew 9:12).
Painfully, for one reason or the other best known to some of us we now repress guilt and sin, keeping it deep within us and somehow, we tell ourselves we are forgiven by believing. We most times find it hard to humble ourselves before God and bare our souls to him. We sometimes find it much more easy to rationalize away sin than present ourselves naked as we are before God.
In the book of 2 Samuel 11 we are told of the story of King David and his encounter with Bathsheba and in verse 12 how he was reminded of his sin by Prophet Nathan which led him to write Psalm 51. It is very easy for us to ignore our sins and focus on social justice. When we suppress our sins, it is there for eternity, however when we confess we are forgiven through the mercy of Christ.
We have a bond with God as his adopted sons and daughters but each time we sin this bond is broken. Sin thus destroys this bond between child and father. Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. The vertical line between God and ourselves is distorted by sin, the sacrament of reconciliation avails us the opportunity of repairing the broken or distorted connection between humanity and God. For the bond between God and frail humanity to be kept intact a frequent visit to the confessional is needed, wherein we are forgiven and gifted with grace to continue the journey of final reconciliation with our Father in heaven.
When considered more, we discover that sin does not just obscure the relationship between us and God on the vertical plane but as well on the horizontal; our relationship with our brothers and sisters whom we relate with. This is so because for every sin committed there is ripple effect on another either directly or indirectly. It damages communion with the Church. This social dimension of sin exist even without our realization. In other words, sin does not only injure God, the sinner, but also some person(s).At Confession, we are not only reconciled with the father but also reconciled with the church. This is important as during the public life of Christ on earth he did not only forgive sinners but also reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of his people by receiving them at his table. Therefore at the sacrament of reconciliation we not only repair our broken bond with God but as well make amendments with those we may have wronged through sin.
When we consider the psychological damage of sin we cannot but see reason to approach this great sacrament that lifts the burden of us. The damage the sin does to us eats us up so deeply that sometimes we become so downcast especially when we find ourselves slipping into the same sin over again, even at times when we never imagined ourselves falling into a particular sin. It can be very psychologically depressing. But the beauty of the sacrament of penance is such that when we actually approach God in sincere nudity we come out refreshed, lightened, and clothed in the joy of his mercy. It is most often a spiritually and psychologically therapeutic experience we should always long for.
Our lives as humans is a life of relationship. Relationship with God and with our sisters and brothers. Every relationship as well ours, is not devoid of emotion. We are thus emotional beings in relationship with God and one another. Emotions cannot be detached from reconciliation for we need to be remorseful for our sins if we are to receive forgiveness. Approaching this sacrament without a sense of total remorse is an exercise in futility. More so, in our state of misery we often seek a shoulder to cry on, who will listen, understand, and not judge us. This shoulder we find in God at the sacrament of reconciliation where we feel in safe hands.
Personally, I have come to appreciate this sacrament so much because in it I find a place where I can totally be myself, emptying my most dark secret to the one who is ever willing to listen without the risk of being judged. It is a place I find healing emotionally and psychologically, while at the same time repairing the damage done to God and humanity. I will always find reason to approach this means of grace even though it takes courage as I am not deterred by the physical presence of a priest for God himself waits for me that I may present myself to him naked as I am. Above all, I will ever see a reason to visit this sacrament as in it I find pardon and peace.
Having known all these, wouldn’t you rather have Christ speak these words to you through his ordained “… through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace” than to have carry the weight of your sins and guilt about.
Written By: Offor Deborah