3/12/2017 12:00 AM
One of the items we do not hear about as much today as was once discussed are the precepts of the Church. While over the years there have been more, currently we have five obligations that the Church lays out for us in order to assist with our discipleship towards the Lord:
1) You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
2) You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
3) You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
4) You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
5) You shall help provide for the needs of the Church.
While all of these are important in the life of the faithful, I would like to focus on numbers two and three for the column today, in particular as we host The Light is On for You this Tuesday.
I know that many, many Catholics have a trepidation and fear when it comes to the sacrament of Confession, either there was a bad experience as a child, or there is a hesitance to admit weakness as an adult. To both, I would encourage you to embrace this sacrament in a new way during this great season of conversion.
In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1422-1498) describes the Sacrament of Confession as just that: the sacrament of conversion, for “it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. (CCC 1423)” And this is something that unites us all: we all sin, we all fail to live up to the call of Jesus to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, for that is quite the daunting task!
Yet, Jesus does not leave us orphaned nor does he want us to undertake this pilgrimage alone. This Sacrament allows us to recognize the areas in our lives where we need His presence all the more, for only He can heal us from the wounds of sin. In this sacrament, Jesus brings us to new birth and restores us into relationship with the Father.
The conversion that Jesus calls us is a never ending process. I think of Socrates’ great line when on trial: ‘True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.’ In a Christian retelling, we could say: ‘I know I am on the path to holiness because I know I am not holy!’ I know that I need to be further converted!
As a priest, I can tell you what it is like from my side of the confessional: more than anything it is humbling, because I know that you are coming to Jesus, in the person of the priest. It is humbling to have another open their heart and soul to the Lord through the ministry of the priest. And I become very aware of the tenderness of that moment. When I am preparing to enter the Confessional, I offer a prayer that I might be a gentle and kind shepherd, after the heart of the Good Shepherd. And more than anything, I know it is my place to help you along your journey of conversion, it is not my place to judge or condemn, but guide and instruct.
Truly, hearing confessions is one of the greatest blessings of the priesthood. Please do not be afraid to come to this Sacrament, either this week as we celebrate The Light is On for You; during our regular Saturday confession schedule, or on April 4 as we celebrate a communal penance service at St. John the Baptist, Dry Ridge. Avail yourself of this great sacrament of freedom!
In Christ, the Good Shepherd,
Fr. Kyle Schnippel
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