Path #4: The Sacrament of Reconciliation
One fruit of silence and prayer is that the more we work on discerning the will of God for us, the more we begin to see how some of our attitudes and habits get in the way of that will, and form a kind of wall between us and the Lord. For this, the Church has an answer: the sacrament of reconciliation.
This may seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me: only by receiving the graces of this sacrament can you be effective in offering it to others. You can’t give what you don’t have.
Over the years, I’ve watched many missionaries in the streets. Some seem incredibly effective; others less so. When I see missionaries who aren’t doing so well, I often ask them quietly at some point, “Have you had a chance to get to confession yet yourself?” Invariably, the answer comes back, “No, not yet.”
I gently push them into the church right then and there. More often than not, they return energized, joyful, and a lot more effective.
In my own case, I had a chance at that silent retreat I told you about to participate in St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises for the first time. In those exercises, the retreat master gives the penitents the opportunity to offer a “general confession,” which is a confession or re-confession of all the sins of your past up to that point.
For me, that was huge. I’d been lugging around a lot of baggage from times long past, but those sins are never forgotten, and they weighed me down. But here was the upside for me: the bigger the list of sins forgiven, the deeper the sense of mercy received. And the deeper that sense, the more powerful the desire to give others the chance to receive that same mercy.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that the two first fathers of the Church, Peter and Paul, were such sinners in the beginning. They must have felt an especially profound healing from Jesus. And I suspect that depth of gratitude and love energized their love for others.
Now, your spiritual life may be in good shape. You may only need a light wash before heading to the streets. Even so, go and receive the sacrament. Its message of mercy and love is a key element of the heart of every missionary.
And if you really want a rocket booster, try a general confession instead. You may find yourself in a whole other orbit.