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DEAR FATHER | We can find the great healing and merciful love of Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation

How can confession help me have a fruitful Lent?

Lent is a great time to take stock of our spiritual lives and our relationship with God. Lent means “springtime,” so let’s consider ways in which we could fall deeper in love with the Lord.

One of the more impactful ways is through the sacrament of reconciliation. Jesus provides us with this sacrament as a means of receiving His love and finding healing from our sins. At His resurrection, Jesus said, “Peace be with you. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). Why hold onto our sins when Jesus longs to wash them away?

Jesus provides a safe place for us to lay them down — in confession. The priest acts in the person of Christ, not judging or condemning, but assisting us through mercy and support.

What too many people don’t understand about reconciliation is the restoration of sanctifying grace. As Catholics, we believe God truly dwells in our souls through baptism. We are made alive in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, through serious sin, we lose this gift. While God still loves us and works through us, there is a separation because we have chosen sin instead of following Him.

Some people question why they need to go to confession. “Are my sins serious enough that I need to go?” Lent is a good time to make a good examination of your conscience: What are the ways I’m living that are contrary to Jesus and the Gospel? Who have I caused harm, even in little things? Come lay them down before the feet of Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

A common concern is how the priest will receive your confession. Some have had bad experiences in the confessional, for various reasons. But I would invite everyone to consider these as exceptions. Most often, people come away with relief and support from priests in the sacrament.

People question whether the priests will remember their sins or judge them for what they confess. Truly, we hear so many confessions to remember specifics (not that we’d even want to). All we want is to be ministers of Jesus’ mercy.

Upon receiving forgiveness in confession and the restoration of sanctifying grace to your soul, a renewed journey begins. There will be temptations and frustrations, sure; the enemy will try to discourage you and make you feel disillusioned. But perseverance through trials, with God’s help, will further your experience of God’s love and help you strengthen your resolve as a disciple. This is the path to holiness. Begin with a confession and continue to return to the sacraments for encouragement!

So how about it? Can you make it a goal to go to confession during Lent? Will you find a good examination of conscience and prayerfully consider ways in which you have chosen sin?

My prayer is for all of us to find the great healing and merciful love of Christ Jesus during Lent, this new springtime.

Father Brian Fallon is the chaplain to the Catholic Student Center at Washington University and the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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