Each year, we take the students at the school over to the parish church to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. In the midst of directing the children either to the closed confessional or to St. Joseph’s altar, one beaming and toothless second grade girl bounced over to me and exclaimed in a loud whisper, “Miss Stuart, I feel so clean.”
In Psalm 32, we read, “Blessed is the one whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.” Do we leave the confessional confident in our forgiveness? Are we truly aware of what takes place when the priest, in persona Christi, raises his hands and prays the prayer of absolution? How often I have left the confessional, still dwelling on the sins I confessed; the sins which were forgiven.
The gospel of Matthew from beginning to end emphasizes the importance of Christ coming to forgive us. From the very beginning, Joseph was told by the angel of the Lord that Mary “will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the foreshadowing of the forgiveness that would take place among the followers of Jesus throughout the gospel, and the foreshadowing of the forgiveness that would be offered to all of us. Matthew makes it clear that forgiveness is significant.
Rewind to another second grader who just received her first reconciliation back in November. Excited, nervous, and dressed in white (a foresight of what was about to take place), she entered the chapel with her mother and father and anxiously awaited the moment she would walk up to the priest placed in the back of the church, who sat beside a beautiful Pieta. At the end of the evening, she came up to me and said, “I smiled when absolution happened and I’m so happy!”
Daughter of God, rejoice after the receiving the sacrament of reconciliation! If you are unable to, ask God for the grace to experience the joy of being forgiven—He loves to grant us graces that allow us to experience His love in profound ways. He desires for us to love His love for us. Jesus came to save us from our sins—yes, even the ones that seem the most difficult to forgive: the ones that keep you up at night, the ones that hurt those closest to us, the ones that made us feel forgotten, the ones in which we lost our innocence; they are all able to be forgiven.
Have faith, and be blessed. Let us be like the second grader who had a spring in her step and delightfully proclaimed her cleanliness as if she couldn’t hold it back any longer. Let us have the strength to say I am clean and I am free because I am loved by the King.
Editor’s Note: I remember attending daily mass for the first time my freshmen year in college, and my hunger for the Eucharist was something I quickly craved. This year, weekly reconciliation has had a dramatic impact on my faith, and nothing has rocked my soul like this since my freshmen year. The graces have been phenomenal, and I highly encourage you to seek divinity in the closed closet.
Jessica Stuart is a Florida native living in the state of Maryland, where she teaches theology at a Catholic school. Being a convert to Catholicism from Judaism, she thinks God writes the most beautiful stories. When she's not studying or lesson-planning, she enjoys a cup of earl grey tea and reading a good book of poetry.