I think it fair to say that we all want happiness and peace; however, finding such beauty can be tricky indeed. Scripture repeatedly reveals to us the path towards such bliss and today’s readings show the way. In order to experience happiness and peace we must let our light shine and become a beacon in the world. Let’s choose to allow our light to shine in the world like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta did. She will be canonised a saint this Sunday by Pope Francis!
However, before we can let our light shine we must understand what this light is and how we can we fan its flames. The light that desires to shine through is Jesus Christ himself, a light that wants to be seen by all the world. As our light shines we have cause for celebration and joy – the stuff that facilitates happiness and peace as only Jesus can provide. Jesus’ disciples lived in the milieu of the light of Jesus and given this they had little need of fasting and repentance. They continually bathed in his transforming light and in his truth. It was the season of celebration for them! They continually received his instruction, his guidance, and his love. As a result of their intimate relationship with Jesus they were free to celebrate life in a way others in his time couldn’t – not even followers of John the Baptist.
You see, sin is in the world and it is sin that causes the darkness, pain, heartache and despair that separates us from Jesus and dims his light within us. The further we get away from the source of all life itself, Jesus Christ, the more we need to practice acts of sacrifice like fasting and prayers. John the Baptist knew this. He knew the threats of this world and he did everything he could to move towards the light and reveal to others the way towards the one true light. John the Baptist is a great saint indeed, he revealed to all the way to Jesus. An act of courage that cost him his earthly life.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. – Mark 1:4
Baptism and Reconciliation
John the Baptist revealed to the world the power that lies within baptism and forgiveness. He continually preached a message of baptism and repentance as he walked the earth looking like a wild-man. He was even chosen by God to baptize his son, Jesus Christ. These two sacraments, Baptism and Reconciliation, connect us with santifying grace, the beautiful grace that stays with our soul for all of eternity. The grace that fans the flames of the one true light within us my friends.
While all the sacraments are a divine gift and all give us sanctifying grace, Baptism and Reconciliation are unique. With Baptism, santifying grace enters in for the first time, while Reconciliation restores the sanctifying grace that was lost due to our sin. The other five sacraments provide an increase in sanctifying grace.
We receive one Baptism, and if you haven’t received this sacrament I invite you to talk with a priest about taking the steps necessary in order to receive this sacrament. Reconciliation; however, can be received many times over – and for good reason! This sacrament removes the barrier that our sin created, a barrier that keeps the Holy Spirit out. The fact of the matter is that we all sin and we all fall short of perfection – even Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis. If the Holy Spirit is kept out then the fullness of God’s love can’t enter in and fan the flames of the light within us. You see, John knew the power of sin and darkness in the world. He knew that we needed to follow Jesus and he knew that we needed baptism and repentance.
I have shared my process of preparing for the sacrament of Reconciliation in Chapter 8: The 4th Face of Struggle: Forgiveness of Self and Others my book, Understanding the Jesus Code. So please allow me to share with you an excerpt from this chapter in today’s reflection.
THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION (CONFESSION)
I believe that the sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession as it is often called, is one of the greatest gifts we can receive when we are struggling with forgiveness. Forgiveness becomes significantly easier for me when I partake of this sacrament. For those who experience this sacrament, you will understand my sentiment. When you go into that confessional and confess your sins, there is an opening of your heart as you release and lift your sins up to God. In return, God restores the sanctifying grace you received at your baptism—the grace that permits you to share a bit in God’s supernatural life, the grace that stays with you for all eternity.
When you find yourself struggling with forgiveness, this sacrament will help your heart heal. Over the years, I have found that my heart is best served when I go into the confessional with a clear understanding of the forgiveness I am seeking. This requires a thorough “examination of conscience.” Over the years I have discovered a few specific steps during my examination of conscience that seem to help my heart feel significantly better afterward.
How I Prepare to Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- I begin in the perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.
- I visualize in my mind the person I am struggling to forgive.
- I ask God why I am struggling with forgiveness, and I wait for his reply.
- Often he lets me know that I am struggling with forgiving them because I perceive that their actions stole love from either myself or someone I love—it’s always one of my children in this case.
- I ask God to restore the love and heal the pain that occurred at the moment of transgression, and I ask him to allow me to see it happen in my mind’s eye.
- I sit and wait until I can see this happen—he never fails to deliver this, my friends.
- I then write down the specifics that were revealed to me that need to be confessed, and I take this to the confessional with me.
For example – I hold anger toward “Susie” because she didn’t invite my daughter to her daughter’s wedding, and I cannot forgive Susie as a result.
- It hurts me when I see my daughter suffer the pain of exclusion, and I am angry that Susie excluded my daughter.
- I don’t want to forgive Susie; I would rather hold on to my anger.
- I am asking God to take this anger and unforgiveness out of my heart so I can love and forgive Susie as he wants me to.
- I am asking God to help me love and forgive Susie the way he wants me to.
That’s it. Then I take this note to the confessional and read from it. Sometimes the priest will give me some beautiful insight, and sometimes he won’t. Regardless of what the priest may share with me in the form of encouragement or guidance, it is Jesus who is there with him extending forgiveness, and my heart always feels lighter and more loving afterward.
If you haven’t been to confession in a while, I invite you to go and experience this gift God has for you. This sacrament will bring you closer to Christ, and it will help to heal your heart of unforgiveness. Rumor has it that Pope Francis receives this sacrament as frequently as every two weeks. If our Pope feels the need for frequent confession, then surely you and I will benefit from it as well! If you are not Catholic, then I invite you to do a little research on the healing power of sanctifying grace, and sit with Jesus, ask him what he wants of you here.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9
Be a light in the world my friends and take the steps necessary so that your light can fully shine! Fan its flames and enjoy its warmth. May you receive God’s forgiveness as you experience the life God has for you! – Carolyn
Sacred Heart of Jesus – have mercy on us.
Saint John the Baptist – pray for us
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta – pray for us
Today’s Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 37; Luke 5:33-39