by Eric Sammons (4/20/2012)
During Lent the Diocese of Venice promoted the Sacrament of Reconciliation through our â€śThe Light is Onâ€ť campaign. Many people came to Confession for the first time in years, while others renewed their practice of Confession as a result of the campaign. God’s mercy was poured out to countless souls through this beautiful and powerful sacrament.
And now that â€śThe Light is Onâ€ť is over — no more TV or radio commercials, no more billboards, no more bus ads — does this mean we can shelve interest in Confession until next Lent? Not at all!
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments, along with the Holy Eucharist, that the Church recommends we receive on a regular basis. Every Catholic is only baptized and confirmed once in their lives, for these sacraments leave indelible marks which remain for all time. Likewise for those men who receive Holy Orders — a man who is ordained a priest is a priest forever. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony pours out grace upon its recipients as long as they both live. And the Anointing of the Sick is only to be administered in special circumstances.
But the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are, among other things, “strengthening” sacraments — they give us renewed vigor in our daily walk with God. Just as we cannot live healthy physical lives without eating every day and visiting the doctor periodically, so we cannot live healthy spiritual lives without frequently receiving the Eucharist and going to Confession.
Most Catholics, of course, are well aware of the importance of receiving the Eucharist on a regular basis. It is our Easter duty to receive our Sacramental Lord at least once each year, but that is just the minimum requirement. Receiving Communion each Sunday, and even more often if possible, is highly recommended by spiritual directors and Saints alike.
What about the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How often should we receive this sacrament of God’s mercy?
Since this sacrament has the power to forgive even our most serious sins, we should certainly go to Confession any time a grave sin is committed. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the normal means by which such sins are forgiven and wiped away. And there is no sin so great that God cannot forgive it! Do not shy away from the sacrament out of a sense of shame or embarrassment; know instead that God is waiting to forgive you through the ministry of a priest — what a great mercy!
Just as we do not go to the doctor only when we are near death, so we must not reserve Confession only for times when we are in danger of spiritual death through grave sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us grace to overcome our habitual sins and to avoid those situations that can easily lead to sin. By going to Confession regularly, we unburden ourselves of those â€ślittleâ€ť sins which are not so little after all. Over time, without the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they may actually put us on the path to spiritual death â€“ just as unhealthy habits that seem like â€ślittleâ€ť problems can set a person up for serious illness. In Confession we are forgiven these sins and given the grace to overcome them in the future.
So how often should we go to Confession? It depends upon the individual, but most religious scholars recommend going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month, as this keeps us from straying too far from God’s mercy. Every parish offers Confession on a regular basis, so be sure to take advantage of this wonderful spiritual gift often in the coming year. Know that the Light is still on for you!
Eric Sammons is the Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization and he can be reached at 941-484-9543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.