The most poignant advice I ever received when it comes to a job interview was, “As much as you want the job, remember, they need you, too.”
This little truth gave me more peace whenever I went to a job interview because I knew that my interviewer was keen for a good interview maybe as much as I was. And this truth was never made more evident to me than when I myself interviewed candidates for a job I needed to fill. I desired something, and I was hoping the person I interviewed next would be the one to meet it.
My fear of confession decreased significantly in a similar way.
Of all the priests that I have known and come to know, not even one has ever wanted to remember something about a particular confession, except for maybe how humbling it was to witness it. It made me understand more of what Jesus desired out of it too.
Jesus wants us to receive the sacrament. And this statement – Jesus wants us to go to Confession – reveals a number of other important truths about Jesus.
First, this truth soothes my fear of being judged by the all-knowing God. Why? Because if God really wanted to judge me for all my faults and condemn me to eternal suffering, He would not have instituted this sacrament at all. Are there prosecuting lawyers who seek every possible way to pardon the guilty? Of course not. Jesus wants us to go to confession because He wants to forgive us.
He declares this in Scripture: “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Second, this means I’m not the only one. If Jesus wants me to go to confession, surely He wants others to go to confession, too. I must admit that there have been many times that upon discovering a long line, I was inclined to discouragement. But is there anything more consoling than knowing that we aren’t suffering alone? The long line means that my Church community suffers along with me, that I am not the only one seeking God’s forgiveness.
Third, this truth means Jesus wants personal contact with me. This is most profound in the Holy Eucharist but Confession offers a dynamic in which dialogue is the prominent feature. When I pray to Jesus in my heart, I believe He listens and, in some cases, speaks to my heart. In the Sacrament of Confession, however, I speak out loud and I can hear a very tangible answer through His priest.
Now not every priest is the same. But every priest, like me and all of us, is a sinner. He is not perfect and he makes mistakes. But this does not change that Jesus sends His priests. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
Yes, confession can be a frightening sacrament. It can be embarrassing, terrifying and there may be so many things which keep me from it. But Jesus wants to meet us there, in all our baggage with open arms. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)