I went to our parish's Advent penance service and to the sacrament of Reconciliation this evening. It is important to have a good soul cleansing once in a while. The last time I went was 8 months ago. Before that, it had been four years! I'm trying to get back in the habit of going more regularly.
Getting up the nerve to go to confession always take some work. Even tonight, standing in line, I was sweating. There is something incredibly humbling about baring your soul to another person. That is why going to penance services is wonderful. There is safety in numbers, and something comforting about watching all these other people of all ages and colors doing the same thing. You also have the opportunity to go to someone other than your parish priest. Somehow it is easier to talk to a stranger who you won't have to see on a regular basis!
But confession is also remarkably liberating. Non-Catholics always say that God himself forgives sins, and of course He does. There is something about going through the process of sweating, and listing your sins, saying your act of contrition, and hearing the words of absolution that makes you feel lighter than air. A young woman standing next to me in line was talking to her grandmother while we were waiting. She told her that every year when she goes to confession, she just asks for a fresh start. How wonderful that we have that opportunity! The sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a chance to begin again, to wipe clean the sins of our past, and to attempt to change.
For a wonderful discussion of the Sacrament of Confession, check out Lord Have Mercy by Scott Hahn. It is a great book and what convinced me to return to the sacrament after my four year absence.