In a few weeks’ time, parishes around Singapore will be holding the annual Lenten Reconciliation Service. This is an important time when we take-stock of our lives, recognise the areas where we have sinned and prepare ourselves for the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is a timely juncture for pause, a period for recollection and a space to redirect our inner dispositions towards Christ; it is a moment where we deeply acknowledge our failings, confess our sins and gratefully receive liberation from the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Along with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, I have always found Confession to be one of the most humbling experiences of the Catholic Faith. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives me the opportunity to tangibly partake in God’s unconditional love for me.
However, though the Sacrament of Reconciliation is rich in meaning and efficacious in nature, it is by no means an easy process lining up for Confession. In fact, lining up for confession is, more often than not, an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience for me. I often wonder whether I’ll be able to make it in time for Mass after Confession i.e. whether I’ll be able to make it just in time for the opening hymn, the responsorial psalm, or the Eucharistic prayer. (On a few occasions, I remembered exiting the confessional straight into another queue: the queue for the Holy Communion). Sometimes whilst I wait in line, I may even get impatient with the persons in front of me, especially if they’re taking a heck of a long time in the confessional: do they not realise that they are others queuing behind them? Can they not be more considerate to those who are rushing to make it for mass?
Most importantly though, the waiting time provided by the queues leading towards the confessional gives me the opportunity to take a long hard look at myself – my state of life, my state of spiritual health and my walk with Jesus. Most of the time, though, these things are not in good shape at all. More often than not, I am struck by how far I have fell short of trusting in His divine providence for me, how sinful I actually am and I am left crippled with the accusatory voices of self-guilt, helplessness and despair.
Sometimes as I line up for Confession, I may even hazard to consider the actual efficacy of this Sacrament. Doubt will immediately rush into my heart and soul as I allow myself to entertain the thoughts of whether I am belittling and profaning this divine gift by my multitude of doubts; whether this Sacrament has lost its inherent meaning in my life. I often also wonder why I keep stumbling and falling into the same old habitual sins – sins that I find hard to rid myself from: sins of the flesh, pride and a lack of self-control, amongst many others. And I often catch myself thinking that if Jesus could heal dozens of sinful people, paraplegics and possessed individuals in the Bible so easily and so instantaneously, why does it seem that my sins – indeed, my very being – take a lifetime to be healed.
In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, it is written that a man stricken with leprosy had come to Jesus saying “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” And Jesus’ immediate answer was “of course I want to” (Matthew 8:2). Can I not have faith that Jesus desires to heal me completely? Can I not believe that He will make me clean in His divine timing? Indeed, the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples touches the deepest recesses of my heart when He exclaimed “[man] of little faith” (Matthew 8:26), “why [do] you doubt” (Matthew 14:31). Why, then, do I doubt in His infinite mercy and His boundless compassion? Why, then, do I still hesitate when all I am required to do is to run towards Him like the prodigal son saying “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:21) confident that He will receive me with open arms, forgive me in my sinfulness and love me unconditionally in my vulnerability and nakedness.
Perhaps, then, it is imperative that I reevaluate the uncomfortable time that I spend waiting in line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Growth, after all comes with some form of discomforts. Maybe, the deeper invitation – and indeed, learning point – is for me to recognise that the time that I spend waiting in line before Confession can be transformed into an intentional period of purgation, purification and preparation so that I may be better equipped to finally articulate the following words to the priest as I enter the confessional: “Bless me Father for I have sinned …”
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok