I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it.
“Do you do all of the priest stuff?”
“Even the Confession thing?”
“Yeah. All the time.”
One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”
I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God. I said, “It would depressing if I had to watch someone leave God; I get to be with them when they come back to Him.” The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win. The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world.
What do I see during Confession?
I think there are three things. First, I see the costly mercy of God in action. I get to regularly come face to face with the overwhelming, life-transforming power of God’s love. I get to see God’s love up-close and it reminds me of how good God is.
Not many folks get to see the way in which God’s sacrifice on the Cross is constantly breaking into people’s lives and melting the hardest hearts. Jesus consoles those who are grieving their sins . . . and strengthens those who find themselves wanting to give up on God or on life.
As a priest, I get to see this thing happen every day.
I see a saint in the making.
The second thing I see is a person who is still trying – a saint in the making. I don’t care if this is the person’s third confession this week; if they are seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it means that they are trying. That’s all that I care about. This thought is worth considering: going to Confession is a sign that you haven’t given up on Jesus.
This is one of the reasons why pride is so deadly. I have talked with people who tell me that they don’t want to go to Confession to their priest because their priest really likes them and "thinks that they are a good kid."
I have two things to say to this.
1. He will not be disappointed! What your priest will see is a person who is trying! I dare you to find a saint who didn’t need to God’s mercy! (Even Mary needed God’s mercy; she received the mercy of God in a dramatic and powerful way at her conception. Boom. Lawyered.)
2. So what if the priest is disappointed? We try to be so impressive with so much of our lives. Confession is a place where we don’t get to be impressive. Confession is a place where the desire to impress goes to die. Think about it: all other sins have the potential to cause us to race to the confessional, but pride is the one that causes us to hide from the God who could heal us.
Do I remember your sins? No!