“Do you want to be well?”
The poignant question posed in the priest’s homily echoed in my mind as I stood in the back of my home parish waiting to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in years. The scripture reading from the Book of John came to mind. Jesus asks a sick man simply, “Do you want to be well?” A moment later, Jesus says, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” and the man miraculously does just that. It is through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest said, that Jesus offers us the same healing.
I have never doubted the power of God’s forgiveness or the healing that He can provide, yet I find myself avoiding the sacrament despite the multitude of opportunities available to me. Why must I confess my sins to a priest when I can bring forth my guilt directly to God in prayer? Unlike God, the priest does not know me or my life. Can the priest really grant me pardon?
As I waited in line, I thought of my first Reconciliation. Unsure of what to say, how to pray and what to do, I remember timidly sitting down in a folding chair next to a visiting priest who could not have missed the blatant fear spread across my face. (Writer’s note: This is before the time of iPhone apps with guides to confession.) We made the sign of the cross together and soon after, I was on my way. “That’s it?” I remember thinking to myself.
Now, many years later, I found myself approaching the sacrament in a totally different way. No longer a child, I stood ready as a strong, faithful woman who recognizes the need for God’s forgiveness. Despite my doubts, I walked toward the priest open to God’s healing and mercy and minutes later, I returned to my pew feeling renewed —a true blessing.
The prophet Isaiah perhaps said it best: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” Within the simple act of verbally confessing our sins, Jesus does something profound—he wipes our slate clean and makes us new again. The sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift meant to be cherished and appreciated, not something to be disregarded as I have for many years.
Just like the sick man in the Gospel of John, I want to be made well, and it is through the sacrament of Reconciliation that God, through His divine power and love, makes us well.