By Martin Nchedo Umeatuegbu
Words of Consolation and Hope to those people, especially the Youths, who still feel afraid and doubt the forgiveness of sins they have received in the Confessional.
- It was the Most Zealous Doctor of the Church, St Alphonsus Liguori that says: “God exercises His Mercy to sinners in three ways: first, in calling them to repentance; second, in waiting for them to return; and thirdly, in welcoming them when they return.” ( Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year,_ Sermon XXXII). Man is a moral being, and his conscience is the Sanctuary where God dwells.
There are many who feel tormented when they remember the great number of mortal/grievous sins they have validly confessed to a priest, so much so that, they re-confess those sins in their next confession, for they do not believe that those sins have been forgiven, and thus, have no peace of the soul. To such kinds of people, I say:
- O Christian soul! What you experience is called scruples, or rather, that you have scrupulous conscience. The best way I can define scruples is that it means seeing sin where there is no sin. Insofar as you made a true and contrite confession with a firm purpose of amendment of life and resolution to commit such sin(s) no more, then it shows that your confessions are sincere.
But the problem is that, perhaps, you do not believe that God has forgiven you; it is not that God did not forgive you, rather, you re-confess them because you have not forgiven yourself. O Devout soul! I tell you most solemnly, what happens at the Confessional is not what any human mind can explain, for it pleases God to forgive you more than it pleases you to receive forgiveness from Him. And once He forgives through His priest, He forgets all your sins, for He does not seek for the death of a sinner, but his/her repentance and conversion.
If Christ forgives you, He asks you to trust in His Mercy, for He told His priests: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained” (John 20:23). Now my dear, insofar as your confession is sincere, it is valid, and for the priest to absolve you means that your sins are forgiven, and not retained. If you still doubt the forgiveness given by the priest, then you are the one saying that that your sins are retained (i.e. not forgiven).
Therefore, arise O Christian soul! God cannot hold your sins in His thoughts every time, for He is Mercy Himself. So, do the same God has done: forgive yourself as He has forgiven you, for if you continue to doubt, you may end up tormenting yourself with more scruples, and find yourself in despair, which is one of the sins against the Holy Spirit. The Mercy of God and the God of Mercy is above every kind of sin.
- Beloved child of God, the Greek Church Father, St John Chrysostom calls God a _Philostorgios_ (Tender Father), and a God of _Synkatabasis_ (Indulgence). These are two Manifestations of God that we feel each time we make a true, contrite and sincere confession, for in humility, God as the Father of Mercies welcomes us as sons/daughters, and grants us Indulgences which expiate the punishments attached to our sins.
Therefore, since God gives you forgiveness while you give yourself scruples, you must destroy what you have formed (scruples), in order to take what God has given you (forgiveness). God understands that you are trying to be very careful during confession, but remember that your carefulness is covered by the Divine Mercy, for during absolution, the priest dispenses the Blood of Christ which flows from the pierced side of Christ as we can see on the Crucifix and the Image of the Divine Mercy.
Again, remember that during your confessions you say: “Both the ones I remembered and the ones I cannot remember, I am truly sorry for them,” and the priest tells you: “I absolve you (i.e. set you free) from ALL your sins.” This shows that given these two expressions, God holds nothing against you, and so, do not hold anything against yourself. The philosophers teach that the word, “ALL” is a universal affirmative expression, while “NO” is a universal negative, and “SOME” is a particular affirmative. So, for a priest to say: “I absolve you from ALL your sins,” means that he tells you: “Dear child of God, ALL your sins are forgiven.” He did not say: “NONE of your sins” or “SOME of your sins are forgiven.
” The word, “Universal” is derived from the Latin words, _“unum” “ver” “salis”,_ which translate as “one” “and” “many”. This implies that if ALL your sins are forgiven, then ONE (in other words, the sins you were able to remember) and MANY other sins (you were not able to remember, are forgiven), for God the Father of Mercies knows that had it been that you remembered all of them, you will also confess them. So He cannot condemn you, for you are different from the soul that voluntarily withholds mortal sins in the confessional, thinking that he/she has been forgiven.
Such kind of soul is guilty of blasphemy against God, and instead of receiving forgiveness, he/she committed another mortal sin. Some of them are not sincere: how can God forgive someone who, instead of confessing that she committed the sin of abortion, tells the priest that she did “flushing”, or one who, instead of saying that he stole, says that he did “tapping”? Such and similar people think they can play game on God, but they know that Confession is not a game, but a Sacrament.
But your case is different, therefore, do not be afraid! For God says that if He is to mark our iniquities, no one can stand before Him (cf. Psalm 130:3). Again, remember that by the virtue of His ordination, the words of the priest who absolved you are the words of Christ, for Christ told the priests:
“He that hears you, hears Me, and he that despises you, despises Me” (Luke 10:16). So, let this always console you, for if Christ says so, then what His priest tells you is both sacred and categorical. It is sacred because he said it within the context of the Sacrament of Confession, and categorical, for he said it without doubting what he has told you.
- O Christian soul! In order to battle against this, whenever you have the thought that your previous sins you have confessed were not forgiven, recommend yourself with faith to the Mercy of God by saying the ejaculatory prayer of the Divine Mercy: “O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!” You can also say the “Hail Holy Queen” to entrust yourself to the defense of the Mother of Mercy who is also the Refuge of sinners.
Again, you may also gaze at the Crucifix with devotion using the words of St Benedict of Nursia in expelling demons to tell the devil saying: _“Crux sacra sit mihi lux, non Draco sit mihi dux, vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana, sunt mala quae libas, ipse venena bibas!”_ (May the Holy Cross be my Light, let the Dragon never be my guide, get behind me Satan! Do not tempt me with your vanities, what you offer is evil, drink the poison yourself!).
In addition, recite the Creed: “I believe in God…” You will discover that on reaching the words: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”, the thought will disappear. Also ask Jesus when you receive the Holy Communion, which is His real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, to help you form a good and true conscience. Mention this also to Mary when you recite Her Rosary, for in one of the fifteen promises of the Rosary given by Her to St Dominic de Guzman and Blessed Alan de la Roche, She said that a soul that recites the Rosary daily with devotion will receive all he/she asks of Her (Promises of the Rosary, no. 11).
Invoke also the Angels and Saints, for many of the Saints had similar experiences and triumphed over them. Do not worry so much, for a soul who values the Sacrament of Confession is on the way to holiness and salvation. Be prayerful and may God always come to your aid. Amen.
I dedicate this spiritual reflection to the Cure of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney, a Catholic priest who had the habit of hearing confessions for up to eighteen hours a day.
Martin Nchedo Umeatuegbu writes from Onitsha