In From the Vine

By Stephanie Landsem

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash.

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.

Showing 6 comments
  • Kathy M

    My son asked why we were going to confession yesterday, and your article explains this so beautifully! We just need that grace to do better and feel better about things, don’t we? To know God is right there with us, ready to bless us and help. Father Gus was funny last week when he said, “People would come up to me when I first became a priest and say ‘I don’t need to go to confession–I talk directly to God.’ Then they would also say their favorite show was Oprah–a show where everyone is confessing everything that’s happened to them and caused their troubles! She made millions off of it!” Yes, inside we really DO feel a need to talk and receive healing! Thank you for this writing, and thank you to God for such a fantastic gift!!

    • Stephanie Landsem

      Thank you, Kathy. I believe God put in us a real desire to confess and make a resolution to do better. And the confessional is the best place to do it!

  • sharon wilson

    Thank you Stephanie. Beautifully written and boy can I identify.

  • Sarah Damm

    What a beautiful reflection on Psalm 51 and the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Thank you, Stephanie!

  • Bibi Reed

    This is exactly what I needed to read tonight! Ready for confession tomorrow evening!! Thank you for these beautiful and encouraging words!

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