Sacrament of Mercy

We’re still waiting on the concrete plans for the Holy Year of Mercy, which will be a Jubilee Year, announced by Pope Francis. We know that a papal bull will be proclaimed by the pope on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12, and that the year will officially begin with the opening of the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8.

For Pope Francis, the experience of having a priest being available for the sacrament of penance should not be an unusual thing. If we are to have a Year of Mercy, we need to realize, first and foremost, that we need mercy; we need the Lord’s forgiveness, for we are sinners.

We live in an age that promotes the “I’m ok, you’re ok” mentality, when we can excuse everything away. The truth is that we are not okay. We are all sinners; we all fall and fail, and we all need the love and forgiveness that can come from the One who is ove and forgiveness. We all need the sacrament of mercy.

If one were to examine the parish bulletins of many parishes, one might see confessions offered once a week for 45 minutes before the Saturday evening vigil Mass, or in the case of some parishes, once a month or by appointment. This is simply not enough. The excuse is that people are not coming to confession, and sadly, this is true. However, in the parishes where the priest waits in the confessional and is alone, a question must be asked: How much catechesis is actually going on about the sacrament of penance? How many times has the healing grace of the sacrament been preached about at Sunday Mass? How often is attention drawn to the sacrament at all?

One of the main hopes that we have for the Holy Year of Mercy is that there is a renewed appreciation of the sacrament of penance and a greater catechesis on its healing power given in homilies at Sunday Mass. One of our biggest hopes is that parishes offer confessions more and more, making it available to people, even if they don’t have an appointment.

Sometimes, a person is moved by the Holy Spirit and just wishes to make an anonymous confession. The right to an anonymous confession is part of the Code of Canon Law No. 964 §2. Many times, this is impossible if the person has to make an appointment to receive the sacrament of penance.

If we really want to celebrate the Holy Year of Mercy, the first thing each parish should do is examine its schedule for confession, the sacrament of mercy and perhaps offer it more often. It’s not wasting the time of our priests – it’s why they were ordained – to sanctify God’s Holy People.

Confession is not a negative thing; It’s not a thing of the past. It’s needed more than ever. Listen to the words of Pope Francis on this topic: “Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession.”

Parishes, be courageous – preach on sin and its remedy – confession, and offer it more often. Even if people don’t respond right away, they will eventually. It is the best eternal medicine.

Meanwhile, everyone will have an opportunity to celebrate the sacrament this Monday – Reconciliation Monday – when all of the churches in the Archdiocese of New York, and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre will be open. It’s a great way to anticipate the Year of Mercy.