One of the most beautiful things any Christian can ever experience in their life is that of the love of God in the sacrament of confession. And this is the key thing to understand about confession. So I really ask you to forget what you think about it for the moment and hear afresh what confession is about.
Confession is first of all the experience of the love of God. When a parish offers times and places to go to confession, this is Jesus himself, through his arms and legs the Church, inviting us to come and and be loved by him in the sacrament of confession. Do you want to be loved? Does your heart ache to know that God loves you? Do you sometimes find yourself saying God if you exist where are you? Confession is one of the principal places this happens.
There are other main places of course: these are called the sacraments. The sacraments is not just a time of prayer. The sacraments are special because unlike any other thing we do it is really God himself saving us through what we hear and see and touch. In the sacrament of the Eucharist it is God’s own body that we touch and receive. In the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick it is God’s own hand who anoints the sick person. And in the sacrament of Confession it is God himself who hears the cry of the poor sinner, prays with them, counsels them, gives them something to help make up for what they’ve done, and forgives them. This is the meaning of the crucifix in each church: with his own blood and suffering, he takes away our sins forever and brings us back into full communion with God who is love.
This is not simply an intellectual exercise: confession is above all a heart to heart – our poor, sinful, discouraged heart encountering the infinite fire of the heart of God. I’m not sure that there is a more personal encounter we can have with anyone on earth, where the contents of our very soul are opened up to God’s heart.
This is why there is nothing to fear and only much to look forward to when we go to confession. When we open our soul up to God in confession, we are opening our soul to pure good and pure beauty and the fire of a totally pure love. Confession is the answer to our prayer in the psalm: Lord, show us your mercy and love, and grant us your salvation. It is the fulfilment of the second reading we receive his free gift to us in the beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. It is the fulfilment of the Alleluia verse: May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our heart that we might see how great is the hope to which we are called. And it is where the priest is sent participating in the same power Jesus gives the apostles in the Gospel: he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in paris giving them authority over unclean spirits. It is not the priest’s wisdom or advice which heals us. It is the power of our Creator in the priest. So don’t be afraid to go to confession to be filled and changed by God’s love.