Scary Sacrament!

If I was to ask the question, “What are you scared of?” What would spring to mind – snakes, spiders, the dark, flying, dogs, the Town Centre on weekend evenings, catching the Covid virus, and any other manner of things or situations that we can think of. For some people, this can be completely debilitating and really adversely affect their day to day lives.
 
Being scared of something, or not necessarily being scared, but anxious, is nothing to be taken lightly. Sometimes these fears or anxieties can be overcome or lessened, but this isn’t always the case. Often the cause of being scared is a feeling of not being in control, a sense that things are unpredictable, or a fear that we might come to harm.
 
Bearing these thoughts in mind, I can understand when on our usual Confirmation Programme, we offer the candidates the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation as they move through the Programme, and prepare to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
 
It is a fact that for many of our candidates, this opportunity may be the first time since they initially received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, often as a precursor to receiving the Eucharist. Most will have continued to want to receive the Eucharist, but something blocks the want to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But what is that block?
 
I have heard it suggested that the alternative names of ‘Confession’ or ‘Penance’ might be off putting. Perhaps the title ‘Forgiveness’, or ‘Healing’, or ‘Conversion’ might be more appropriate? But, all of these still would fail to attract people to come to receive the sacrament.
 
What many of the candidates tell us, is that the being scared stems from a mixture of embarrassment, not liking to admit that they haven’t lived up to the expectations they and others have of them, plus, saying sorry to the priest doesn’t feel comfortable. We often also hear the line, “I can just talk to God and tell Him I’m sorry for what I’ve done, so why do I need to tell a priest?”
 
Our priests, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, stand in the person of Christ, allowing us to converse directly and intimately with Him. It is in bringing ourselves to Christ that we truly meet Him – we have to make the effort to do this, and in doing so shows our desire to be a recipient of the love He promises and freely offers us.
 
So what are you thinking reading this? Are you someone who can’t see what the fuss is about, and people should just get on with it? Or, are you also finding going to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation a difficultly?
 
To put it into perspective.
On the Confirmation Programme, we use a book called ‘Youcat’, a youth catechism of the Church that helps to explain aspects of our faith (I highly recommend this book!). In the section (226) regarding Reconciliation it says:
“It does not seem like a modern thing to go to confession; it can be difficult and may cost a great deal of effort at first. But it is one of the greatest graces that we can receive again and again in our life – it truly renews the soul, completely unburdens it, leaving it without the debts of the past, accepted in love, and equipped with new strength. God is merciful, and He desires nothing more earnestly than for us, too, to lay claim to His mercy. Someone who has gone to confession turns a clean new page in the book of his life.”
 
In my mind, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a natural extension of my individual relationship with God the Father.
A God who provides me with an opportunity,
a Father who accepts and welcomes me as I am,
a merciful love who gives me forgiveness and strength to carry on,
and the grace that fortifies me to take his love out into the world.
Without this, I continue to put up barriers between Him and me.
 
As catechists, it always, without fail, gives us a feeling of joy, when we see the candidates coming out of receiving the grace of Reconciliation with beaming smiles and a sense of fulfilment as they have made peace with God our Father.
 
If I’m scared of this, perhaps I can make an extra effort to overcome what it is that is stopping me in seeking the sacrament. Additionally we can remember in our prayers to ask God to give others the strength to overcome whatever any barriers there might be. And perhaps we can support, rather than criticise, those who can’t overcome their sense of fear.
 
He is open to us, are we open to Him?
 
Deacon Ian Black

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