By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Clarion Herald Commentary
For the last several years you have made available the sacrament of confession in every parish on three consecutive Wednesdays during Lent. Those remaining archdiocesan-wide opportunities will be the next two Wednesdays, April 3 and April 10, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Why is this initiative in reconciliation so important to you?
In a particular way, Lent is a time when God calls us to a change of heart. We are invited to look at our lives and identify an action or an attitude that needs to be changed in order for us to be more open to God’s love and to share his love with others. Lent is not meant to be a morose time, but rather a time when we experience conversion and share in the new life of the Risen Christ. All of our parishes have confessions on Saturday afternoons before the Vigil Mass, and many offer confessions daily or weekly. Nevertheless, providing this additional time for confession throughout the archdiocese enables people to celebrate the Lenten season and to be reminded of the importance of repentance and a renewed spirit. We hope the late- afternoon/early-evening time schedule will fit well with people’s work and family schedules.
You’ve talked in the past about Pope Francis’ emphasis on the mercy of God.
I love Pope Francis’ words about confession. He says, “We may tire of asking God for forgiveness, but God never tires of forgiving us.” There are times when we find ourselves in confession repeating the same sins. That is not unusual. Nevertheless, the question should be, since my last confession, have I given this area of my life attention and have I made any progress? Confession is a sacrament of healing. The Lord Jesus is merciful and loving, and he extends his hand, touches our heart and says, “I have forgiven you, and I assure you of my continued love.” Pope Francis also said, “Confessing our sins is not going to be a torture chamber … but a time of healing.” There is no sin that we have committed that God would not forgive. When we experience that feeling of being beyond forgiveness, we should remember St. Peter, who denied Christ; St. Paul, who persecuted and killed Christians; and St. Augustine, who led a wild life and whose mother, St. Monica, prayed for many years for his conversion.
You have made available confession cards in every parish that include an explanation for how to make a good confession, which starts with an examination of conscience.
An examination of conscience before confession is very important. In examining our conscience, we identify the actions and attitudes that need change. We also ask another important question: What is it in me that allows me to do this or, in some cases, not to do good. Sins of omission are important for us to recognize. What opportunities to serve and love God and others am I not taking advantage of?
Here are some questions that can be asked as part of our examination of conscience.
An Examination of Conscience
–Have I treated people, events or things as more important than God, thus creating false Gods?
–Am I actively living my Catholic faith and, if I have them, raising my children in the faith?
–Have I been ashamed to speak about my faith?
–Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church or people?
–Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation?
–Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?
–Do I use my gifts and talents to serve God?
–Do I take time for prayer?
–Do I care for those around me or do I use them to get what I want?
–Do I show respect to my parents and those in positions of legitimate authority?
–Do I show respect to my children and others who are under my authority?
–Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belong to another?
–Am I lazy?
–Have I harmed others through physical, verbal or emotional means?
–Do I look down on those who are different from me?
–Have I gossiped, told lies or embellished stories at the expense of another?
–Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?
–If married, have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?
–Am I content with my own gifts or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?
–Do I seek to fill what is lacking in my life with material possessions?
–Am I sincerely sorry for the things I have done wrong?
–If I have addictions to alcohol, drugs, pornography or gambling, am I facing this weakness and getting help?
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.