Advent is a time when we may reflect upon that all of us are sinners and desperately need forgiveness. It is one of the most important aspects of our lives; we need and must have supernatural grace and forgiveness. We need the miracle of forgiveness from God! We don’t have the power to forgive others and to forgive ourselves in a way that will heal us. When we open our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness, it changes our ability to forgive others.
How do we transform our hearts to receive the forgiveness that God wants to give us? It is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession is an incredible act of love in which we enter stained and sinful and leave white as snow. Meditate on the love that God pours into us. We enter the confessional often full of shame and leave with peace and hope.
It is critical that each of us individually embrace humility. To go to confession is an act of humility, especially when we go to a priest who we know well. Reconciliation is humility in action! It is through humility that we embrace love and this sacrament of forgiveness.
Confession is the sacrament that can mold us into an image of Christ. It is the mercy, sacrifice and forgiveness which transforms our character. If there is anything that separates us from Jesus, this sacrament will bring us together. We allow God to take away anything that is poison for our souls.
Forgiveness is a poison that enters us and pollutes our spirituality. How many times do we enter the confessional with the idea of confessing how we have not forgiven various people in our lives? The reality of the sin of not forgiving someone needs to be confessed. It is important to remember that we are sinners and we must go to confession as sinners, to tell God we are sorry for what we have done that may have hurt Him.
Before we go to confession, we should pray and allow the Lord to reveal to us our sins, including our lack of forgiveness, and so that we may be sorry for our sins. We should ask for grace to overcome habitual sin and temptations and increase personal virtue and our love of God.
Penance is absolutely necessary to help train us to forgive others and ourselves. It is through penance and discipline that we learn how to tame the unholy passions and desires that attack us. Through the process of confession and penance we strive for the fruit of the Holy Spirit rather than the pleasure of the flesh.
To reverse many years of struggling to forgive, we need the sacraments to give us the strength to transform our behavior. We must hunger to be one with Jesus through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Mass and Holy Eucharist. After I go to confession, I feel like I am walking on air! I can feel the Father’s arms around me as I say “Abba,” daddy!
God’s mercy is greater than anything we can imagine! When we sin or harbor lack of forgiveness we can go to the Father and sincerely say, “I’m sorry and I repent.” God is a forgiving Father and you can be assured that He will forgive us.
It takes a great deal of courage to break the bondage of sin and lack of forgiveness. It is through humility that we can go to confession and receive God’s forgiveness. What happens if we go to confession and then find ourselves sinning soon afterward? It is more than okay to go back to reconciliation if you need the help and grace.
One of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to learn is examination of our conscience on a daily basis. Go before the Lord for your prayer time, perhaps in the evening. Ask the Lord to reveal to you when you have chosen sin instead of the Lord. When you have moved away from Him, called desolation, rather than toward Him, called consolation. This exercise is like a reflective mirror to examine our motivation with our actions. It is through this discipline that we can dig deep into our souls and attempt to ascertain what the stumbling blocks are that usually are connected to some type of forgiveness issue.
Knowledge of ourselves is a critical part of spiritual awareness and growth. While I am far from a saint, I can relate to so many of them who saw themselves as wicked and wretched. It is critical to truly pray and meditate and taste the love, mercy and forgiveness of God; it is hard not to see ourselves as horrible.
When we see our sin and weakness, we are on the way to greater holiness. If we see ourselves as people who don’t need mercy and forgiveness, we will only get deeper into sin and not forgive others of their weaknesses. Reconciliation begins with a desire for a clean heart, which will help us see God in ourselves and others.
Once we have gone and become clean through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are now ready to unite with Christ through the Eucharist. It is the love of Jesus that gives us the Eucharist, which is mandatory for us to achieve holiness and be the personification of God’s love and forgiveness. Our souls must be one with Christ and the Eucharist.
Jesus is clear on the importance of the “bread of life.”
John 6: 51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
How important is this for us? It is essential in our battle of forgiveness of ourselves and others.
John 6: 53-56 “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.’”
Our life is connected to our willingness to be connected with the Eucharist and have it be an integral part of our lives. Jesus tells us over and over that He “thirsts.” He is hungry for souls and for us individually. Jesus wants us to forgive so that He can fill us with His love, forgiveness and grace. Jesus is constantly saying “come to me.” When we come to Him we want to forgive and be healed. We can no longer harbor bitterness and a spirit of holding onto our lack of forgiveness.
When we receive Holy Communion we need to do it with a heart that is free of hatred or anything that is against the love that is God. The Eucharist is the intimate union with Jesus into our body and soul in a unique way. In reading books on the saints, we find that many spent hours in preparation and thanksgiving before they received His Body and Blood.
Our ability to truly eradicate our lack of forgiveness is to ask the Lord to wash away our sins and cleanse us of sin and any animosity in our hearts and souls. Jesus is the “Bread of Life.” It is this bread which truly transforms us into agents of His love, joy and peace. Jesus wanted to give Himself to us in a way that was necessary for our spiritual union and growth.
There are times in our lives when we feel broken, not wanted, unloved and lonely. In Isaiah 43:4, God tells us how important we are to Him: “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you.”
We are so important that He humbles Himself and allows Himself to be held in our hands as His Body and Blood.
The sacraments give us strength when we need it most, which is most of the time. We need to trust in Jesus and not be afraid to turn to Him.
Isaiah 41: 10,13 “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.“… For I am the Lord your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you.”
It is so critical to fully grasp how much Jesus wants us to be transformed into His image of love and forgiveness. That is why forgiveness is so emphasized as being paramount to being forgiven by God. Jesus calls us each by name and delivers us from the evil one.
Isaiah 43: 1-2, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”
It is time we make a decision to forgive and be one with Jesus. God wants to heal you. When you are healed of your issues with forgiveness you can then be used to be an instrument of peace. Your desire to live a life of love and forgiveness will be brand new. We can truly experience the Lord saying to us that we are a new creation in Him. We can hear Jesus saying to us, “Behold, I make all things new!”
There is no substitute for making reconciliation and daily Mass an integral part of our lives. It is so vital that it is the same as making sure you have daily food, drink and sleep. Jesus loves you passionately and has forgiven you. As you prepare for the coming of the Christ Child this Christmas, connect with Our Lord through the sacraments and live a life of abundance!