|Devotion to the Sacrament of Forgiveness|
|An appeal to the Mercy of God for the conversion of sinners|
The Forgotten Sacrament
There is much sin among Catholics today. Many Catholics do not accept all of the teachings of Jesus Christ given to us through the Catholic Church. Many commit the sins of contraception and various kinds of sexual sins. Many commit sins of lying and dishonesty, of anger and unkindness to others, of arrogance and self-indulgence. Many Catholics pray little, sin much, and are in danger of losing the faith all together. Yet the confessionals are empty.The Sacrament of Mercy
Even among those Catholics who attend Mass regularly, most go to confession rarely or not at all. How many Catholics attend Mass at your parish on any week-end? The churches are nearly full during Sunday Masses. But at the time given for attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how many are present? The churches are nearly empty when it is time to admit our sins to God. There is much sin in the world, yet very few persons seek God's forgiveness by confessing their sins to a priest. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is forgotton and ignored by most Catholics.
Devotion to the Sacrament of Forgiveness
We are all sinners. So we all have need of God's forgiveness and mercy. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was established by Jesus Christ to keep us poor sinners close to God by giving us an easy way to turn back to God after we have sinned. Whosoever repents of their sins and receives this holy Sacrament of God's Forgiveness will be forgiven by God. How easy it is to obtain the forgiveness of God!
Many Catholics today have fallen away from the Church. They no longer believe what the Church teaches, and no longer receive the Sacraments. If they are to return to the Church and be reconciled with God, they must repent of their sins and their unbelief, and receive God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is no other way for them to return to full unity with the Church and with God.
Even for those Catholics who believe and pray, there is need for the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When you sin against God, if only in small ways, you distance yourself from the love of God and you impede the action of God's grace within you. To receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to continue in your journey towards God. But if you refuse the Sacrament, if you ignore it or delay receiving it, you continue in a path away from God.
Refusing to go to confession is like refusing to take a shower or bath. Sure, you can go without bathing for some period of time. But no matter how clean a life you live, if you don't bathe regularly, you will begin to smell bad, become covered with grime and dirt, and become increasingly offensive to those around you. Similarly, when you refuse or delay receiving the Sacrament of God's Mercy, your soul continues to gather in sin after sin, and becomes increasingly offensive to God. But if you repent and receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness, you cleanse your soul, washing it in the love and mercy of God. How refreshing to the soul to be cleansed from sins of every kind!
Pope John Paul II's Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2001 - In this letter the Pope tells us that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is essential for every Christian life and that this Sacrament is in a state of crisis in the Church: "The crisis of the sacrament of Reconciliation which I mentioned earlier is due to many factors from the diminished sense of sin to an inadequate realization of the sacramental economy of God's salvation." (paragraph 12).
If you are a faithful Catholic, who believes what the Church teaches, join with other Catholics in this holy appeal to the Mercy of God to bring repentant sinners to the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Show your Devotion to the Sacrament of Forgiveness by offering some portion of your prayers and sacrifices to God for the intention that sinners repent of their sins and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Only by the Grace of God will sinners repent of their sins and return to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You cannot hope to convince people to repent by your own words alone. You cannot force or pressure sinners into receiving the Sacrament of Forgiveness devoutly. Even reason, by itself, will not suffice to convince sinners to turn back to God. Put your trust in God alone. Seek God's abundant and merciful grace to bring sinner to repentance and to the Sacrament of Forgiveness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Mt 23:23) Every one who wishes to be a true child of the Sacrament of Forgiveness must themselves continuously repent of their sins and receive God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When praying that sinners may repent and devoutly receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness, you must first and foremost pray that you will yourself continuously repent and devoutly receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite.
The power of prayer and sacrifice on behalf of poor sinners is greatly increased when accompanied by repentance and conversion. But if you say to yourself such things as: "I have few sins. I don't need to go to confession very often. It is those other people, who sin much, who need the Sacrament, but not me." If you have such thoughts in your mind or such intentions in your heart, then your prayers and sacrifices on behalf of poor sinners will be greatly weakened. That is why whenever you ask God, through prayers, sacrifices, or works of mercy, to bring sinners to repentance and to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you must also ask for the very same grace for yourself.
Even if you are the next Mother Therese of Calcutta, or the next Padre Pio, you must continually and repeatedly ask for and in every way seek the grace of a sincere and thorough repentance from all sins, and the grace to receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness devoutly. No exceptions. Even if you are a priest who spends much time each week bringing God's forgiveness to repentant sinners in the confessional, you must continually seek and root out all sin in yourself and frequently receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.