Your Sins Are Forgiven

Glenmary News

Your Sins Are Forgiven

A missioner reflects on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the reunion of God and the faithful.

On many occasions, especially when I share vocational talks, one of the questions that often stands out is: “Father, what do you like the most about your priestly ministry?” It is a little difficult for me to answer since there are several things that I not only like, but that I love to do as a priest. However, if I have to choose one, I would choose the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Father, what is so special about the Sacrament of Reconciliation?” If I hear the first question, this question will almost certainly come right away. I can’t express feelings in letters, because more than feelings, it is divine grace that manifests itself in an intangible way.

Despite my weaknesses and failures, he has chosen me to be that agent who helps those with broken and repentant hearts to return to the Father’s house. It is important  to remember that the priest is not the one who forgives, the priest acts In Persona Christi Capitis, that is, participating in the priesthood of Christ. Christ Jesus in his infinite mercy is the one who forgives. God himself is the one who comes out to meet those who decide to return to the Father’s house.

“Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” What a beautiful phrase that Jesus tells us after we know that we have been forgiven by his infinite mercy, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

God welcomes us
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, while Jesus was preaching in Capernaum, many people gathered to hear him. There was a paralyzed man who, due to his condition, could not go to see Jesus. The evangelist narrates that some men helped him, they made the encounter possible, they opened the roof above Jesus. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying so Jesus could heal this man’s soul.

“Get up, your sins are forgiven.” In order for the paralyzed man to be able to hear these words, it was necessary for these men to bring him to meet Jesus. Ministerial priests are these men whom God uses to bring the sick to him, those who want that reunion with God. To witness the repentance of a son/daughter of God is to feel the love, mercy, tenderness, and compassion of God who always waits to embrace us, to welcome us.

In the United States, there are many towns far from the cities where Catholics miss the great opportunity to receive this grace of God’s forgiveness through the priest, simply due to the fact of not having a Catholic Church in their county of residence. God and Glenmary have given me the opportunity to be that agent who somehow makes possible the reunion between God and the faithful in these rural areas.

A loving Father
I am blessed by God to belong to Glenmary. Though we Glenmarians are limited, especially in vocations, we try to attend to the needs of God’s children in counties where we serve. As a missionary community, we try to ensure that our parishioners have an experience of God not as a distant God, but as a God who always walks with them, in good times and in bad times.

Often when I hear someone’s confession, I try to present a God who, while demanding repentance and conversion, also shows us the most tender and loving side of him. Jesus does not care what we did yesterday; he cares about our repentance and conversion in the present moment.

The parable of the prodigal son from the Gospel of Luke presents to us a God who does not ask reasons, but who simply forgives. “While he was still far away, his father saw him and felt compassion for him. He ran to meet him and received him with hugs and kisses. . . .Quickly bring the best garment and dress him, put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet” (Lk 15:20–22).

This is the God in whom we must believe and have faith. God is full of joy; he celebrates when the disobedient son realizes his errors and returns to the place from which he should never have left. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is that hug and kisses of the father telling us how much he loves us. That is why, after having confessed our sinfulness, the feelings we experience are hope, love, trust, relief.  

Born Again

On one occasion, a person asked me if I had time to listen to his confession. My answer was the same as always: There is always time for confession, to reconcile with God; the perfect time is right now. At the beginning of the confession, he told me that he did not remember how to make a good confession since more than 30 years had passed without attending to this sacrament. I guided him so that he could make his confession.

At the end of the sacrament, he told me something that many of us have perhaps experienced after reconciling with God: “Father, I don’t know why I let so many years pass to do this, I feel as if I had been born again.”

Removing the stain of sin is to be born again. Sin is a bondage of Satan to make us his slaves; Jesus frees us from those bonds through this sacrament of forgiveness. The perfect time for confession is today, right now. Let’s not let so much time pass, let’s allow ourselves to be free by Jesus, who in his infinite love and mercy welcomes us with a heavenly feast. 

May the Holy Spirit give us courage to attend to the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Let us hear the words of healing, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.”

 – Father José Carlos Miguel López

This story was originally featured in the Glenmary Challenge.