How many of you can say that? “I have no sins!” Yet, that is the goal of Lent: “Repent, turn away from your sins and be faithful to the Gospel.” Each of us is urged by the Church to turn away from our sins and to return to the Gospel during this holy season of Lent. The way for us to do that is of course in the confessional.
Each Advent and Lent I hear hundreds of confessions. It is a very humbling experience. Of course, I can never speak about any sins confessed; no priest ever has and never will. The “seal of the confessional” is absolute and sacrosanct. We priests die with those sins confessed to us. We may never speak to any other human being of those sins confessed—ever!
What I would like to tell you however is what happens after Confessions, in particular regarding the school. During the season of Lent and Easter we receive the confessions of every one of our hundreds of parish school children. In addition, we take the confessions of all our Religious Education children. That is a lot of hours in the confessional. Here’s what I notice: when the children leave the confessional most times they do so with great joy and glee. Often, they chirp with delight. Perhaps they do not cognitively know why, but they feel it. They feel God’s forgiveness. They cannot put it into words, and so they express it otherwise: they jump up, they laugh, they smile. What they feel is that all is right with God and it makes them smile. They have been unburdened. The uninhibited child jumps up and skips out of the confessional every time. Their simple and unrestrained delight teaches us the truth about the confessional—it can bring us great joy, because all is made right with God. Who could ask for anything more wonderful? Who could ask for any greater gift? Finally, after the whole class has gone to Confession I ask them in one chorus to repeat after me: “I have no sins!” By now they are used to this and they do it well—but they always giggle and smile. This tells me that they know and feel God’s wonderful Mercy and Forgiveness. I ask them to tell their family tonight at dinner “I have no sins!” I ask them to tell everyone they meet for the rest of the day “I have no sins!” They giggle again with great joy.
I hope you will get to Confession this Lent. Confessions are every Saturday at 4PM here in our parish and in most parishes around the country. On Monday April 10, Confession will be available in every church here on Long Island—yes, every church—from 3PM to 9PM. Wherever you are in Suffolk, Nassau, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, Westchester, the Bronx, and beyond, you will find a priest waiting for you in the Confessional. I hope you go. I promise you it could just make you too jump up and dance with delight that all has now been made right with God. And isn’t that what Confession is for?
– Fr. Gerard Gordon