My younger son Isaac made his first confession this evening. He was so nervous baforehand - so scared the priest would yell at him, that he would screw up, that it would somehow go horribly wrong. Thankfully, all went well. He bravely got in line at our parish's Advent Penance Service and walked determinedly to the priest who promised he would go easy on him. He came back and said his penance and was done and relieved to be so.
Confession is hard. I remember being nervous at my own 1st confession a long time ago. I also remember the sense of relief that came after - the feeling that all was right with the world and my soul was clean. I still get nervous going to confession. I'm embarrassed to admit that the longest I went without going to confession was 4 years. It was hard to go back. I started going back a couple times a year. Now I try to go every month or every other month. It is easier to go more often - you don't get out of the habit that way or get overwhelmed with all you have to say. Yet, I still get nervous. I stand in line waiting to go and still stress about it. I try to come up with compelling reasons why I should get out of line. Yet, I stay. I face the reality of my own sin and ask for forgiveness. It's humbling and unpleasant, but I always feel better after. I don't always have the feeling of being totally wiped clean anymore, but I do always feel a sense of relief. There is something wonderful in being told you are absolved of your sin. I'm so glad that we Catholics have the gift of confession.
The painting in this post is "The Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt. Our pastoral minister referred to it in her reflection this evening. It is a beautiful portrait of forgiveness. God is waiting for all of us with open arms. He is always ready to forgive and welcome us home. Perhaps if you have been away from confession for a while, this Advent could be the perfect time to go back. God is waiting for you.