The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) plays a vital role in the lives of the faithful. Through confession, we are given the opportunity to reconcile with God and benefit from the great mercy He extends to us through Jesus Christ His Son. In the third post in this confession series from the Basilica, Msgr. Vito Buonanno, Associate Rector and Director of Pilgrimages, discusses the powerful work of God through confession.
The Power of God
One of the things confession reminds us of is our total reliance on God’s Providence. We have to hold on, believing that even situations that seem impossible can be transformed in the hands of God. It is only with His grace that the impossible can be done. I cannot do it by myself, nobody can, but God, in His great mystery, can and does change things.
In His Providence, He has a way of placing us in situations that we do not understand, but will be revealed to us. The way things happen in our lives — for good or for bad — somehow, some way, they’re all there for the purpose of directing us to Him. We need to know that He is with us on the way.
The Power of Confession
Confession is beneficial to me as a priest as well — listening to people, recognizing my own sinfulness, and understanding that I am not worthy. I know I am not worthy to impart this grace, but God is using me as His instrument. Many times, it has brought me to tears. I am overcome by it. I can remember the very first time I had to sit in a confessional as a newly ordained priest. I was praying, “Dear God, make me say the right thing.” I can remember calling my spiritual director right after I heard confessions.
I was like a mush ball, crying on the phone and saying, “I don’t know if I can do this. I mean, people are telling me their sins and here I am, a sinner.”
And I was told: “Yeah, we all know that feeling, but that’s why God put you there. So know that it’s more than you.”
God Works in Confession
I always try to think about that in the confessional: it’s more than me. As many times as I can resist going there, when I know it’s inconvenient. Sometimes, I am late, I am rushing. I got a thousand things to do. I have to celebrate Mass right after it. And my sinful self is thinking, “Oh my gosh. Get this over with.” But God brings me there with the right attitude, and helps me realize there’s nothing else that matters in that moment.
But more importantly, that is the mystery of the sacrament that you cannot get any other place — only God gives that grace. Not me, not the penitent. God. And you will know that God is present at that moment. I try to explain that to those confessing, that even as broken as they are, God is there, in that moment. He is listening and wanting them to know how much He loves them. If I can make people leave the experience of the sacrament knowing that, despite their sinfulness, God loves them and empowers them with His love, then I have been God’s effective instrument. I think it is the grace of the sacrament to know that the Church, even in her sinfulness, perseveres in the mercy of God, to that ultimate realization of the kingdom of God on earth.