“Be not afraid.” These are words that we hear spoken by the Lord in various ways and on several occasions through the Scriptures. Fear can be paralyzing, and we can miss out of many things in life because our fear prevents us from moving forward. In response to this phenomenon, our diocese has been working on an effort to address the fears we often face in life, confronting those fears through the eyes of our Catholic faith. If you would like to explore some of the topics, check out the website: https://benotafraid.dio.org/
As the team was preparing content, I was asked to do a video on the topic of the fear that many people face when it comes to going to Confession. I consider myself to be uniquely equipped to answer this topic for two reasons. First of all, I have the privilege of hearing many confessions here at the Cathedral. Second, I know what it is like to be afraid to go to confession. I remember vividly the fear that I had when I returned to the sacrament after having been away from it for a long time, maybe as many as ten years, if not more! I was so terrified to go, but I pushed through the fear and went, and it truly was once of the best moments of my life. It marked a new beginning in my life with Christ and His Church and I have no doubt that it was the beginning of my discernment of my vocation to the priesthood.
In the video, I started by saying that one of the biggest fears that we have when it comes to going to confession is the fear of admitting that we actually need to go to confession. In other words, we are afraid to admit that we are sinners. We might acknowledge that we are wounded, that we are broken, that we are in need of healing, but it is easier for us to point to other people as the cause for our brokenness. And while we cannot downplay what others have done to hurt us, we as Christians are called to humbly admit the brokenness and woundedness that we introduce into our lives because of the decisions that we make. This is what sin is – our freely choosing to hurt ourselves, though our intention may not always be so explicit when we do those things, but we know it to be true as we suffer the consequences.
Jesus knew how we would struggle with sin in our lives. Wanting us to be free, to be at peace, He left the Church a great gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by which the Lord heals our wounds and makes us whole again through the gift of this mercy. He waits eagerly to give us this gift, and if we could see the look on His face as we enter the confessional, and the delight He has in granting us forgiveness, all our fears would melt as we are overcome by the power of His love for us, His children. So the next time you experience that fear when you think about going to confession, the fear of admitting that you are a sinner, take a moment and close your eyes, picture Jesus looking at you with the most loving gaze you can imagine. Then, run to His arms as He waits to embrace you in the confessional. Your being there will bring Him great joy, and you will set off a great celebration in Heaven, for He Himself tells us: “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:7)