WelCom October 2018:
This article is the third and final part of a series by Fr James Lyons about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The name of God is Mercy. There can be no other name. St John tells us that God is Love. If love is the essence of God’s being, then mercy is God’s primary identifying feature.
But we mustn’t mistake mercy for leniency.
Love refuses to hold grudges and is always ready to excuse. Love can even override reason and be gentle and forgiving when the offender shows little sign of remorse or sorrow.
Yet love is also demanding and unphased by rebellion. Love holds its ground and presents mercy not as a license to do what you like, but as a seed encouraging the growth of love in the offender.
A true parent is always eager and quick to forgive the erring child. The child will invariably continue to be naughty, disobedient and selfish, repeating “I’m sorry” many times a day! Gradually, the growing years bring a new awareness of the love that has been so generously given and sorrow gives way to gratefulness.
The prophet Ezechiel affirms that God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones. (cf Ex 37:1-14).
Mercy does not overlook fault but understands the underlying weakness. It projects hope for change, for transformation, and believes that what appears to be barren can become fertile, what appears to be lifeless is not yet dead.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation should be approached with this in mind. The priority is not the confession of sins, but an appreciation of God’s love for me. Gratefulness for this undeserved love leads me to open my heart in sorrow, to acknowledge my failings and, with thanksgiving, feel the warmth of forgiveness.
Knowing that the name of God is Mercy should relieve any fear of coming home. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation all fear is eliminated through the welcome received and the assurance of forgiveness. All you need to bring is sorrow born of love and a joyful desire to live well.