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Pope Pius XII said that the problem with the world today is that it has lost its sense of sin. Pope John Paul II said that the problem with the world today is that it has lost its sense of God. Today, we are surrounded by a secular humanism that reduces sin to what offends another. Everyone is faced with the reality of sin all around us and in our own lives. Everyone needs to know freedom and peace. Stress abounds in the world today and many are given to selfishness, pride, rebellion, stubbornness. Indeed, many live without hope.

God has called us to be holy, to know who He is, His holiness, to know the holiness of others and to know our own holiness. There is a growth process in the spiritual life whereby we recognize that sin is sin. No matter whether it is mortal or venial, serious or simply imperfections, we are to root out sin. Ideally we would never extinguish the light of Christ in us or stain our baptismal robe with sin but the reality is that we do.

How do I know I need to be reconciled? How do I know what my sins are? We could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us or we could ask those we live with what they are. To know when to be reconciled, we need to check the signs of slippage that may be evident in our lives. Such signs are: using foul language (when we usually don't); being grumpy, angry, easily aroused to anger; not enjoying going to Mass or reading scripture (it can taste dry - like sand or sawdust); being impatient; being selfish; not loving, not feeling like helping others; the conscience stops bothering, no awareness of sin (I'm not so bad, I'm O.K.); don't feel like eating, sleeping. If any of these signs are present in your life you need to be reconciled.

1 John 1:8-9 tells us �If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.� Contrition is the beginning and heart of conversion. Contrition is a clear and decisive rejection of sin committed together with the resolution not to commit sin again, out of the love one has for God which is reborn with repentance. Contrition and conversion are even more a drawing near to the holiness of God. They are a rediscovery of one's true identity which has been disturbed by sin. It is a liberation in the very depth of self, a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved by Jesus.

Nothing is more personal and intimate than this sacrament in which the sinner stands alone before God with his sin, with repentance and trust in the mercy of God. In the process of conversion we turn away from serious sin, then from venial sin too, and then we work to correct our faults, our failings, our imperfections because even these hinder a true reflection of Jesus Christ through us.

We may struggle with our `daily sins,' with our humanity, with the whole idea of confessing and admitting `my sin' to another. But if we want to be healed and set free we need to humble ourselves and take the step that leads to freedom: confession, turning away from sin, choosing the path of holiness, goodness, righteousness. By approaching Him to receive the welcome back `hug of Christ' we blossom anew in God's love, in His peace and joy.

Through receiving forgiveness we receive healing of our inner person, our spirit, our mind, emotions, even our body. But we must also forgive; just as we receive God's forgiveness, we must forgive, ourselves and others. When we receive reconciliation God remembers our sin no more �it is over and gone. It sometimes seems more difficult to forgive ourselves but in the name of Jesus it can be done. To offer reconciliation to another, to forgive so that we can be forgiven is the way to healing, wholeness and sanctity. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation the confessor may pray for inner healing, deliverance, healing of memories, of emotions, and of the body. 'To be healed we must give the Lord permission not only to `clean the house' but to set us free and to stir up the life of grace within us. To be healed and free we must recognize that God is God and I am not; we must decide to follow Him faithfully.

A saint is a very human person in whom Jesus lives again. The love of God and the love of others are indissolubly connected. The only way to prove we love God is to love those whom God loves. The only way to prove that God is within our hearts is constantly to show the love of others within our lives. When we walk with the Lord Jesus in intimate relationship with Him, not ahead of Him or behind Him or off to the side, we walk with a pure heart, with a clean heart. We give up all sin for Him, for more of Him. Confession anyone? Go and be healed, be made new, be made whole.

Fr. Peter Coughlin is the Director of Service for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Ontario. � 2001, ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City


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