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The sixth benefit of regular confession reminds us of the most important advice given by the Greek philosopher Socrates to those who seek human excellence or perfection: “Know thyself.” We grow in self-knowledge through the examination of conscience that necessarily precedes confession. We come to know ourselves better, recognize our weaknesses without rationalizing them. We are moved to make an act of contrition for our sins and shortcomings. Because we are examining ourselves in front of our Father God, who is so good and deserving of all our love, we are moved to a sorrow of love, the most important act in going to confession. This sorrow leads to a resolution not to fall into the same sins again. This resolution is very compatible with the awareness that, because of our human weaknesses, we may fall again. God, however, is very understanding and is willing to forgive us as long as we are sincere in wanting to amend our lives. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God is willing to give us a second chance and as many chances (seventy times seven, which means unlimited number of times) as long as we come back repentant.
Seventh, we grow in the virtues of humility and sincerity by the fact of confessing our sins to the priest. Sometimes we may be embarrassed to confess certain sins, especially if the confessor personally knows us, but the very fact of telling them to another helps us grow in these important virtues. Besides, we feel secure in the thought that the priest is bound by a very strict seal of secrecy which prevents him from revealing our sins to anyone. After making a good confession, we are relieved of the feeling of guilt because we are certain that our sins have been totally erased by a Merciful God who washes our soul clean. As we read in the Old Testament, though our sins are red as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow. The mercy of God knows no limits.
Eighth, the penance the priest asks us to perform makes up at least in part for the temporal punishment due to our sins, thus shortening our time in Purgatory if indeed we need to go there after we die. We can shorten our time in Purgatory even further by offering acts of mortification and self-denial in our everyday lives. We can also earn indulgences, whether partial or plenary, through certain spiritual acts specified by the Church hierarchy. These indulgences can also shorten our time in Purgatory and if they are plenary, completely remove the temporal punishments, thus enabling us to go directly to heaven after death. To obtain a plenary indulgence, in addition to the specified acts, plus praying for the Pope, and going to communion on the same day and to confession one week before or after the performance of the specified acts, we must be able to make an act of contrition in which we express hatred for every deliberate venial sin. Since this is not an easy condition to fulfil, it is wise to frequently exercise acts of perfect contrition in which we renounce even the slightest venial sin. By going to frequent confession, we have the opportunity to exercise these acts of perfect contrition, although God is so good that our confession is valid even if our contrition is imperfect, i.e. that the reason why we are sorry for the sins is that we are afraid of going to hell and losing heaven, which is still a supernatural reason.
Ninth, confession can bring about the healing of the soul that is tormented by the guilt of sin. We may be burdened not only by guilt, but also by anger, hatred, desire of revenge, sadness or even depression. Some people may even be led to commit suicide if the sense of depression is overpowering. Without even going to a psychoanalyst, we can relieve ourselves of depression by a good confession, from which we often emerge significantly healed and ready to begin again, especially after confessing serious mortal sins.
And finally, as a result of the other benefits, we always leave the confessional with a deep sense of joy and peace of soul. As mentioned above, it is the joy experienced by the prodigal son when, after confessing his sins to his father, he is embraced and kissed and given the best robe (cf. Lk 15:11-25). With all these benefits, it is a pity that many of our fellow Catholics do not have the practice of frequent confession. No matter how busy one may be, to go to your parish or some public church (such as the Stella Orientis chapel of the University of Asia and the Pacific, where there is always a priest in the confessional from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday) at least once a month to receive the Sacrament of Mercy or Reconciliation is not asking too much. We can attain both the earthly and heavenly happiness that we all seek through this gift that Christ left as one of the seven Sacraments.
For those who are interested in purchasing the publications of Fr. John Flader, they are available at the Totus Book Store on Connecticut St. in Greenhills. You may also contact Henry Siy at 0917 826 0047. Among the works of Fr. Flader is a DVD series entitled Journey into Truth containing the principal teachings of the Catholic Church in a way anyone can understand and shows how they can be lived out in ordinary life. The 24 half-hour talks cover the four parts of the Catechism and are enhanced by beautiful high definition film clips, images, and quotations. This is ideal for adult education catechism classes in parishes, youth groups, teachers, catechists, and families. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.