By Stephanie Landsem
Confession has always been tough for me. Not because I have a long list of mortal sins—I’m probably no less or more sinful than most of the confessors that step behind the curtain of the confessional. No, it’s hard because I don’t like taking a good look at myself and admitting that once again, I’ve sinned. Not only that, it’s often the SAME SINS. Chronic, stubborn sins. I’m like a broken record. If the priest were really honest, he’d peek around the screen and say to me, “Really, Stephanie? Again?” (Of course he doesn’t).
But because confession is hard, today’s responsorial psalm is a great comfort for me as I—once again—work through an examination of conscience in preparation for confession during this season of Lent. This psalm tells me of God’s great love. Of his compassion. In this psalm, I see Jesus, waiting for me to come to him in the confessional. Waiting with open arms. With goodness. With mercy.
And so, as I wait in line and watch the little light on top of the confessional blinking from red (someone’s in there) to green (it’s my turn), I pray along with the psalmist:
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
I walk in and take my place—sometimes behind the screen and sometimes face to face—and take a deep breath. Then I tell Jesus all of it. All my sins. The ones I come back to again and again. What I have done and what I have failed to do. He is listening. He is ready to forgive. Always. Even if he’s heard it all before from me.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Then, the hard part is over. I hear my penance and then the beauty of absolution. A feeling like a weight being lifted from my shoulders and disappearing. A new resolve taking its place. I can—and I will, with God’s grace—overcome even the most stubborn sins. The psalmist feels it, too. The joy of salvation. The desire to share that joy with others.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
Lent is drawing to a close and if you’re like me, you might have put off going to confession. I urge you to take advantage of this sacrament of grace. Even if it’s always the same sins. Even if it’s hard. Don’t give up. If I can do it, you can, too. Receive a clean heart and renew your spirit.
Go. He’s waiting for you.
About the Author:
Stephanie Landsem is a wife, mother, lifelong Catholic, and author of authentic biblical fiction. The Living Water series (The Well, The Thief, and The Tomb, A Novel of Martha) published by Simon & Schuster, is based on encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John.