Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pray and don't worry...

That was a saying of St. Pio - a wise, wise priest who spent untold hours in the confessional, bringing the sacrament of reconciliation to those who came to him, through the power vested in him by his priestly ordination.

So many people misunderstand the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation. It is, in my mind, the most beautiful of the sacraments. When we are estranged from a loved one, it hurts - we put up barriers, we pretend it does not matter, but deep inside, in our souls, we know that it is not healthy.

So too, when we turn our backs on God - when we do things that we know are not good for us - things that the world says are just fine, we may not be healthy in our relationship with God.

God loves us - for the very simple reason that He created us. We can do nothing to earn God's love - He is love - and we are God's beloved.

He hurts when we hurt - and when we separate ourselves from God in sin, He waits patiently for us to come to Him and repent of that sin. We feel better - God's opinion of us does not waiver - He still loves us ... and He forgives us our sinful ways when we come to Him.

When we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, we get out of our "comfort zone" - we actually have to examine our conscience, pray about what sins we need to confess - not ones that we necessarily want to confess, but need to confess, then get to the church, stand in line and wait our turn!

The waiting of our turn is a lesson in patience and humility. Of course, we always want things to go quickly in this hurry up society of ours and when we are waiting in line to go in and confess our sins to our priest who is acting on behalf of God, we learn the virtue of patience and humility, that yes, we are sinners and yes, we need God.

The movies tend to show a person going into the church, walking right into the confessional - no one waiting - and a priest of course, is always available. The penitent in the movies confesses one sin and the priest has a reaction that is Hollywood and not the reaction that a genuine priest has.

So - we go into the confessional, we tell the priest (Alter Christi) our sins and he may or may not ask us to explain further. He may discuss what we have brought to him in our confession. A good priest will give good direction, ask us to say the words of contrition and then by the power vested in him by God, will on behalf of the Church, absolve the penitent from their sins. Biblically, one can find this given to the early church, to the apostles ... John 20:23 "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (King James Version).

A penance is given to the penitent ... prayers, an act of kindness, a meditation on how to avoid the near occasion of sin...many things can be given as penance.

So - at the end of the day, after a person receives the sacrament of reconciliation, that sacrament brings him closer to God because the barrier of sin is no longer there. That has been wiped away - the barrier.

The consequence of sin may still remain - but the barrier to which the penitent had that was blocking their site of God is gone.

And that is a good thing! So, back to "pray and don't worry" ... Saint Pio would tell his penitents this after a good reconciliation. I love that saying...that and, love God with all your heart, your soul and your mind!