This is the first time in memory where I can truly say I have found joy in Christ. To be honest, I never understood the concept of joy and even now I am not sure I can even convey exactly what it is, but I now know what it means to have it and to experience it. If Lent is a time meant to reflect on our lives, our relationship with our Lord, our admission of imperfection and our repentance, then I have experienced it in a way that I have never have before. I have stared in the eyes of His enduring mercy this Lent and the joy is indescribable.
Since Ash Wednesday I have gone to confession twice with the goal of making a biweekly confession a habit beyond Lent. It is a practice I have fallen out of and I mean to rectify that. As much as I look forward to Easter every year, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy that my eyes and soul are set upon. Imagine all temporal punishment due to sin wiped out in one fell swoop. That is what awaits those that seek His mercy on this Sunday. For more information visit Divine Mercy Sunday website.
Have you ever gone to confession greatly troubled because of serious sins committed and in making your confession other grievous sins were not remembered because your mind goes blank? In Father Z's website WDTPRS , he discusses this at length, but the upshot is as written in his excerpt:
"Keep in mind that when you make a good confession, to the best of your
ability, even the sins that you have forgotten are forgiven. If you
remember them later, include them in your confession, by all means. But
don’t worry that you have to have a perfect, machine-like memory. Just
do your best and all your sins are forgiven."
Though I have known that truly forgotten sins are forgiven my memory sought to keep accusing me of these sins committed decades ago. I could not shake these memories even though I had no doubt that I had been forgiven for these sins, yet the accusing finger of my memories refused to relent. I felt alienated from God, His love and His mercy in particular and could not get past these 'accusations' and progress in my relationship to God was severely hampered.
I have always found confession difficult because of the shame, humiliation and the guilt associated with my sins. Now remembering these past, forgotten sins filled me with dread even though I had been previously absolved. Since I went to confession for the first time this Lent I have walked around everyday considering what to do about my memories. The thought of going back to confession and confessing the forgotten sins of long ago all but killed me with shame. I also knew however that if I didn't go back and talk to my confessor about them that I would not have any peace whatsoever. Last Saturday I finally got up the courage to face my fears and went back to confession.
I cannot describe to you the terror I felt waiting for my turn in the confessional. I began by confessing the sins I had committed since my last confession two weeks ago and then told my confessor what I was about to do. After explaining to him of my memories I told him I wanted to tell him of the forgotten sins that wracked me to no end. I broke down. Completely. The first thing I blurted out was "Please Father! Please do not judge me for what I am about to tell you!". He calmly answered that he was not here to pass judgement on me and prodded me to go on. That is all I needed. I emptied myself completely. Once I started there was no stopping me. While I had been waiting to enter the confessional I had fervently prayed to our Blessed Mother for strength to overcome my fear and I can tell you this without a doubt, that she was there with me while I poured my heart out with countless tears. I could hardly speak yet my guilt poured out. Then I listened quietly.
The first and the most beautiful thing I heard coming from this priest of God after confessing my horrid acts of the past was: "Have no doubt of God's love for you and His love for His children is beyond all comprehension and that His mercy is poured out on you. You are so loved my Him at this moment that God cannot refuse you His mercy." He then went on and explained that sometimes our memories bring temptations and that they are NOT from God but from Satan. These temptations are meant to bring us to despair and lose sight of God's love. As he said, there is no confessed sin that God's love and mercy cannot forgive and to be glad in this knowledge and have no doubt of it. I was glad but more than that, a joy settled on me and a peace I don't believe I have ever felt in my life. Such a weight has been lifted that I cannot understand how I could have borne it all this time without my soul and spirit being crushed.
It is true of what is said that only the greatest of sinners know the the extent of God's mercy. I know it is true for I have received it. Beyond all measure. The joy I feel today is such that no matter what happens in our world or in my little life I know I belong to God and nothing can take me from Him. Take my advice and do not ever allow fear, shame and humiliation keep you from His loving presence in the sacrament of Penance. You cannot live with your guilt no matter how strong you think you are. Perhaps Satan did try to make me despair by forcing these memories to come to the forefront but it didn't work out the way he wanted. I am free today. Truly free. Go to confession and let Him remove your guilt so that you may truly live and have real joy in our Lord.