The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus thoughtfully covers every way we can perfect ourselves through devotion to the Sacred Heart and warns us against every pitfall we face in attaining holiness. Here, Fr. Peter J Arnoudt, SJ offers a consoling guide on the promises and challenges of making fruitful, sincere confessions.
God’s Promise Of Mercy
The voice of Jesus—My Child, My Heart—knowing that the frailty of mortals is of such a nature, that, whilst on earth, they cannot live without sin—has devised a saving means, whereby, if it is rightly used, they may not only obtain the remission of their sins, but also receive an increase of grace.
God is faithful, and, according to His word, He forgives their sins to those that confess them; and He gives grace to those that pray for it, and seek to live better. (1 John 1:9; 5:14). What would become of most men, if there were no Confession? How few should be saved! And how many of those who now rejoice in Heaven, or shall possess it hereafter, should be lost!
The Favors Of Confession
What can be more advantageous than rightly to confess? Through Confession, man is freed from faults, he returns into favor with Me, he receives peace of heart; so that he who before felt himself tortured with anguish now finds himself calm and happy.
The Sacrament of Penance is the medicine of the soul whereby vices are healed, temptations put to flight, the snares of the devil destroyed, new grace is imparted, piety increased, virtue rendered more and more solid. Through Confession, the soul regains her rights, which she had lost by committing sin; and recovers her beauty, which unrighteousness had disfigured.
Overcoming Shame And Fear
But it sometimes happens that the sinner, when he approaches this Sacrament of divine mercy, impelled either by shame or fear, throws himself into the abyss of sacrilege; so that now he is not simply a sinner, but becomes a frightful monster of sin.
But, consider: why shouldst thou hesitate to unfold thy conscience before him who is appointed by Me, and holds My place in thy regard? When thou presentest thyself, as a penitent, before him, thou oughtest, indeed, to look upon the Confessor even as upon Myself; for he verily represents Me, and possesses My power. Yet, he also is a man, and has his own miseries; and he, too, as well as thyself, is obliged to make Confession: which is all the harder for him, as, by reason of his elevated condition, he ought to be more perfect.
Thus has it been ordained from Heaven in a most wise and holy manner, that all—priests no less than laymen—who desire to he freed from grievous sin, should be obliged to confess: and that it be especially proper that the priests, whose sacred employments demand a greater holiness, should cleanse themselves, by frequent Confession, even from slighter trespasses. Hence, laymen confess, with greater freedom and confidence, to the priests; and priests learn, by experience, to feel compassion for their miseries, to be weak with them that are weak, and to weep with them that weep.
Some hold Confession in dread, and do not approach it without trembling. Behold, the greatest sinners, as well as the greatest Saints, find consolation therein: and thou art tormented with anxiety! There the dead return to life and the living live more fully. Why, then, tremblest thou, as if thou wert going to death, or to the rack? Thou errest, my Child, thou errest; this most wholesome Sacrament was not instituted for torturing, but for solacing the heart.
Striving For Sincerity Of Heart
But there are those that confess their sins candidly enough, and yet are not improved. And why? Because they do not strive with a sincere heart to correct themselves. Some approach the Sacrament of Penance from necessity, others through human respect, others again from a certain custom. Why wonder, then, if they that approach in this manner derive from it but little or no fruit? Do, thou, My Child—having ever thy own salvation and My good pleasure before thy eyes—make each Confession, as if it were to be the last of thy life: thus wilt thou experience sweet and wonderful effects.
Keeping Courage In The Face Of Temptation
Yet, know thyself, My Child, and learn, that thou shalt often be tempted to do again those things, over which thou hadst wept, and which thou hadst resolved to shun. Do not, on that account, lose courage, Child, nor be thou saddened overmuch. These will be the effects, not of malice, but of frailty; being involuntary, rather than deliberate transgressions. Thence, learn thou the goodness of My Heart, ever ready to pardon thee; and, in like manner, the pitiful condition of thy heart, which is ever inclined to evil, and frequently betrays thee. Beware, however, lest, on account of this thy great frailty, thou neglect Confession: but the weaker thou feelest thyself, the more frequently have thou recourse to it.
Consolation For The Sinner
Cast aside, therefore, all uneasiness and anxiety. I am not a God of agitation, but of peace; I find My delight, not in the commotion, but in the good will of the soul. Do what thou canst, and confess with as sincere a heart, as thou art able to do: after that, remain in peace, nor be thou disturbed by the suggestions of the enemy, or of thy own imagination. My Heart is the place of refuge for sinners. As often as anyone flies hither with a contrite and humble heart, I will neither cast him off, nor will I despise him. Do, then, frequently resort to that divine bath, wherein My Heart will wash thy soul with My Blood, and wash her yet more, until she be wholly pure and stainless.