You Are Invited to Confession Especially If You Have Been Away a Long Time
By Bishop David J. Malloy
On April 6, we will celebrate Be Reconciled Day once again in the Diocese of Rockford. As has been the case for the last number of years, on the Wednesday before Holy Week we undertake this initiative of forgiveness and reconciliation.
All of our parishes in the diocese are asked to hear confessions during that day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Of course that schedule might vary in parishes where there is only one priest available, or whose pastor is responsible for multiple parishes. So do check your parish schedule for specific times.
Still, Be Reconciled Day attempts to make the sacrament of confession available on a wide scale by accommodating several groups of people. For example, some people say that their daily routine is so full that they have difficulty finding a confession time that fits their schedule. By hearing confessions throughout the day and evening, and with the possibility of different times offered by nearby parishes, our priests are seeking to make Lenten confession especially available for those with differing schedules.
At times too, priests are told that for some the normal experience of going to the parish church alone followed by confessing one-on-one with a priest can be uncomfortable, especially for those who have not been to confession regularly. Confessing on Be Reconciled Day often means coming to the parish church when a number of people are in the church, coming and going. And with the thousands who come to confession on this day throughout the diocese, it becomes part of a community experience which for many helps address this anxiety.
Be Reconciled Day also has become a moment of outreach and welcome for those who have not been to the sacrament of reconciliation in a long time. Because the sad reality is that fewer people have availed themselves of regular confession in recent decades, one of the consequences is a feeling of fear and discomfort that can build over that time away. As a result, even for those with past unreconciled sins or with just that feeling that they should be going, there is a reluctance that keeps them away from this sacrament of God’s mercy.
For that reason, through parish preaching as well as spreading the word on television, radio, social media and in print, a fundamental message is that Be Reconciled Day is an invitation especially to those who have been away. The priests hearing the confessions know that on this day they will hear from many such persons. They are especially intent in such cases on offering the love and forgiveness of Jesus to repentant sinners.
Let me underscore that point. If you have been away from confession for a long time, I personally invite you to make this Lent the time of your return.
This day is also a special day for us as priests. Many comment on the long hours that they will spend in the confessional on Wednesday. But the knowledge that those hours allow many to leave the confessional on that day with a sense of freedom and God’s forgiveness for sins that have long afflicted their conscience makes it all very satisfying.
Christ told the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). This is the assurance given to the Church that each of us has when we confess our sins. The absolution given by the priest means that Christ has promised that he will forget those sins forever.
All of us need that forgiveness. We need that assurance. Mostly, we need that encounter with God’s love as we seek our place in His kingdom for all eternity. On April 6, come. Be Reconciled. We look forward to seeing you!