Presence of God – O Jesus, You who are ever seeking the prodigal son, despise not my contrite and humble heart, but purify it in Your precious Blood.
Grace, which has been given to us so abundantly in Baptism and Confirmation, has of itself the infallible power to sanctify. It does not force us, however, to do good nor does it sanctify us without our voluntary cooperation. Man always remains free to cooperate or not with this divine gift; unfortunately, it is always possible for him to resist grace and condescend to evil, thus failing in his duty as a child of God and a soldier of Christ. Jesus, foreseeing these possible defections and falls, has instituted a special Sacrament for the sole purpose of healing the wounds of sin, of restoring sinners to grace and of providing strength for their weakness. Our Lord said to the Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:23). By these words, Christ conferred on them and on their successors the formidable power of forgiving sins in His Name. This power was not given to the angels nor even to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, but was reserved for His ministers.
Scandalized at seeing Jesus absolve sinners, the scribes asked one another, “Who can forgive sins, but God only?” (Mark 2:7). Wavering between unbelief and derision, the world still considers the Sacrament of Penance with a like attitude; it cannot and will not recognize in the priest a minister commissioned by God to remit sin. But for those who believe, there is perhaps no other Sacrament which so rouses our piety, devotion, and gratitude. How powerful are the Sacraments by which we are raised to the dignity of children of God and soldiers of Jesus Christ; how ineffable is the Sacrament by which we are nourished with the immaculate Flesh; yet is it not more touching still that in the Sacrament of Penance Jesus goes in search of the Christian who has betrayed Him, of the soldier who has deserted the camp, of the son who, after having been nourished at His table, has gone far away to eat even the husks of swine? Instead of being indignant or repelling one who has made such poor use of His boundless gifts, Jesus through the Sacrament of Penance offers him pardon and mercy; He heals this soul which, through formerly clothed in the wedding garment of grace and regenerated in His precious Blood, has fallen into sin, making itself His enemy.
“If you have sinned, my soul, and are wounded, behold your God, your physician, waiting to heal you. His omnipotence permits Him to remit all your sins in one moment; His goodness and mercy urge Him to forgive you.
“Are you terrified, perhaps, because He is your judge? Have confidence, my soul, because if He is your judge, He is also your defender. He is your defender to excuse you and justify you if you repent; and He is your judge, not to condemn you, but to save you, if you are humble. His mercy is infinitely greater than all your iniquities. And I tell you this, not that you will remain in sin and make yourself unworthy of His pity, but that you will drive away evil, and not despair of His clemency and pardon” (Bl. Louis de Blois).
“O fountain of love, most loving Lord Jesus Christ, filled with so much and such ineffable goodness, You always forestall us with Your love; if we seek You, You present Yourself to us and come to meet us. Your love, Your immense charity extends even to Your enemies. You do not refuse to give Yourself to anyone; You despise no one, but You call and welcome all as Your friends. Your superabundant charity is so limitless that You call to repentance those who miserably lie in sin; and often, even though they rebel, You constrain them to return to You.
“Deign then, to help me, O most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, fire and light of love; enkindle and illumine my cold, rebellious heart by Your charity, so that, for love of You, I may grieve for my sins, do penance, and with a pure, loving, and humble heart give myself to the practice of the works which are pleasing to You. Thus, prevented, aided, and followed by Your grace, I may live the present life in Your love, and at its close may obtain by your mercy life eternal where I shall love You forever in glory” (Ven. Raymond Jourdain).
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Art: The Confession, Giuseppe Molteni, 1838, CC-SA, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.