Reconciliation is the Sacrament of the Year of Faith
On the Second Sunday of Advent, we heard John the Baptist imploring, Repent! Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!
If we are to be successful in preparing other people for the Lord during the Year of Faith, we must first straighten our own path. Before we can effectively re-propose the Good News of Jesus Christ, we must first seek the kingdom ourselves with prayer and a sincere desire for on-going personal conversion and renewal in grace. (Porta Fidei 6). As Pope Benedict said in his homily to open the Synod on the New Evangelization,
Following this guidance, in their final list of propositions, the Synod Fathers asked that the Sacrament of Reconciliation be placed again at the center of the Church’s pastoral activity. Accordingly, we should take this time in Advent and throughout the Year of Faith to make a good confession.
Although we might stray from the Lord, we are never lost. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also called the Sacrament of Penance or Confession), we find that He never abandons us. In His infinite merciful love, our Redeemer Jesus, whose name means “God saves,” took our sins upon Himself on the Cross.
Sacramental confession and absolution are not mere symbolism. Rather, the priest in the confessional acts “in the person of Christ,” who makes all things new (Rev 21:5), including making us new in grace so that not only are we reconciled to God with our sins forgiven, but we also receive His divine assistance to lead a more loving, truthful, and faith-filled life.
With the graces received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, together with the Eucharist – if only we fully accept them – we can finally overcome those sins that we struggle with again and again but cannot avoid through our own efforts.
With the rocks and weeds removed from our own lives, we can more effectively spread the seed and obtain a more plentiful harvest. Having been solemnly purified, we thereby allow the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of evangelization, to work in us and through us in proclaiming the healing salvation God offers to a broken and injured world.
We should not keep to ourselves the great gifts of reconciliation and faith and freedom from the slavery to sin. They must be fearlessly shared with others. (Porta Fidei 10). So, in addition to personal reconciliation with God by making a good sacramental confession as part of a re-evangelization of self, we should also make a good confession of faith, seeking the reconciliation of others by proposing the Good News to those who do not already know Christ or re-proposing it to people for whom His message has lost its meaning.
Pope Benedict reminded us in his meditation at the opening of the Synod that the two great pillars of evangelization are the confessio (confession of faith even unto martyrdom) and caritas (love), and Blessed Pope John Paul II observed that the first form of evangelization is personal witness because people put more trust in witnesses than in teachers (Redemptoris Missio 42). We must joyfully confess our faith to others, proclaiming the truth of Christ so that they might be led to profess their own faith in Him and thereafter receive the gift of reconciliation in the Sacrament of Baptism or, if they are already Catholic but have strayed, to return to the loving arms of the Father (Lk 15:20).
In this Year of Faith we can pledge, as our part in the New Evangelization, frequently to make a good confession of sins, conscious of our continual need to turn to the Lord, and to make a good confession of faith to others, seeking their conversion and reconciliation with the Lord.