As you get ready to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation less than a month from now, the Church gathers you together to celebrate another Sacrament: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How long has it been since you’ve celebrated that sacrament? People used to go to Confession every week back in the day, but maybe you’ve been someone who has gone to confession a few times a year. You might go with your family during Advent and Lent, and maybe you’ve been to Confession on a retreat or something. But maybe you haven’t been to Confession in a long, long time. Maybe this is even your second Confession ever, the first one being way back in second grade.
Whether you’re a regular participant in this sacrament, or if this is your first one in a long time, we are glad you are here. We’re here this evening because the Church knows that all of us are a long way from being perfect. As important as our relationship with God may be, as much as we might want to live good lives and get along with our parents, brothers, sisters and friends, we sometimes mess up. Sometimes we mess up a whole lot. And sometimes messing up a whole lot makes us feel so bad about ourselves that we mess up a whole lot more. It’s a kind of vicious circle, and we might have a real bad time getting out of it.
Maybe your relationship with your parents is pretty horrible. Maybe you haven’t spoken to some of your family in a long time. Maybe you don’t have the friends you would like to have any more, and the people you’re hanging out with are only making you feel worse. Maybe some of those relationships have turn sexual or are pretty inappropriately close to it. Maybe some of those relationships lead you to victimize others as a bully. Maybe you’ve done something to someone that seemed funny at the time, but you had no idea how hurtful it would become. Maybe gossip is so much a part of your life that you don’t even stop to consider the consequences of it.
Maybe you have the beginnings of some addictive behavior. Maybe you’ve tried drugs, or alcohol, or are spending too much time on the internet. Maybe you’ve been surfing the internet and found things that don’t make you feel too good about yourself or others. Maybe you’ve wanted to stop it but you haven’t been able to do that.
Maybe school isn’t a good place for you. Maybe the only way you can get through it in the way that meets the expectations of your parents, or your teammates, or your friends is to cheat. Maybe you have no idea how you’re going to get out of the rapidly-developing hole that is developing because you are so far behind in your studies even in October that you’re just lost.
Maybe you’ve completely turned away from the Church and have no idea why you’re going to be Confirmed. Maybe you haven’t gone to Mass on a regular basis in years. Maybe the only time you’ve been recently is in your small groups. Maybe you don’t know how to pray, or you don’t even have a sense of God enough to know why it’s wrong to use his name in vain.
Maybe you’ve taken something that was not yours to take. It could have been something that belonged to one of your siblings that you took without asking. Or maybe it was bigger, something from a store or the place where you work. Maybe you’ve stolen money from your parents to buy stuff they’d never let you have voluntarily.
And this is just the beginning of the many ways that we can mess up in our world today. The temptation to go in these directions is so strong, and most of the world has given up trying to discourage us from seeking these things. But the Church is here to say that the cycle of our sinfulness doesn’t have to be endless. We are not what we do, or what we have become. And we don’t have to be that way forever.
A popular Christian song right now says,
Turn me around pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one who can undo
What I’ve become. (“Undo” by Rush of Fools)
And right here tonight we have the way to undo it. We are asking you to come to one of the priests here for Confession. We know that this might be your first time in a long time, so if that’s true, tell us that, and ask for help if you need it. Confessing your sins to God and doing the penance is our way of turning to God for his mercy. And on his part, God always grants that mercy.
We may have lied, but we were never created to be liars. We might have stolen, but we weren’t meant to be thieves. We might have been hurtful, but weren’t made to be inconsiderate and uncompassionate. We might have addictions but were never intended to be enslaved to something that is not God. And tonight’s confession might be the first step for you in receiving the mercy it takes to undo all that. Because God is the only one who can undo what we’ve become.