As a result of Original Sin, all of us, with the exception of Jesus, and Mary through the privilege of the Immaculate Conception, are conceived with Original Sin and commit sin, and are indeed sinners.
Saint Augustine, who lived as a slave of sin, a slave of his own sinful passions into his early 30’s, after his conversion wrote and taught some of the most beautiful and profound insights in the history of the world. Of great comfort, solace, and consolation is the teaching of Augustine on the sin of Adam and Eve which he termed O Happy Fault! Why you might ask, would the Original Sin be considered a Happy Fault? Augustine continues by teaching that as a result of Original Sin, God brought good, a much greater good out of this moral evil. The greater good of course was the Incarnation of the Son of God. The Eternal Father in His Infinite Love sent to the world, and for each and every one of us individually, Jesus born of the Virgin Mary, to show us how to live, to work miracles for us, but most specially to die on the cross for us and rise from the dead to give us life and life in abundance.
GOD’S MERCY THROUGH THE CHURCH AND CONFESSION. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus decided not to leave us orphans but to be with us always, even until the end of the world. How you might ask? The response is clear and unequivocal: through the Church, and most especially through the Sacraments. Every Sacrament communicates grace, but each Sacrament communicates a specific grace of its own that differentiates it from the other six Sacraments. The Sacrament of Confession is the Sacrament of God’s mercy and the Sacrament of God’s healing. By committing sin, we wound our soul, as well as others! By receiving the Sacrament of Confession worthily, we receive a deep inner healing.
FRUITS/EFFECTS OF A GOOD CONFESSION. There is much that can be said about the Sacrament of Confession. However, it is the purpose of this essay to highlight the positive fruits or effects of the Sacrament of Confession, also known as Penance, Forgiveness, as well as Reconciliation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DISPOSITIVE GRACE OF THE SACRAMENT. It must be said off the bat that the Sacraments are extraordinary gifts from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacraments are infinite reservoirs of grace. However, classical theology teaches us the concept of Dispositive Grace; by this is meant: one receives an abundance of graces or a paltry amount of graces in direct proportion to the disposition of our heart. That is to say, a better preparation leads to a better disposition of heart, and a more fruitful reception with more abundant graces. In other words, flippant, nonchalant, mediocre receptions of the Sacraments diminish to a great degree the graces that God wants to communicate to the soul. Indeed, a very worthy and noble spiritual enterprise in our life should be an ardent desire to receive the Sacraments with a fervent and well-disposed heart. May Our Lady help us!
Now let us go through a list of the many graces that flow from a well-prepared, well-disposed, and fervent reception of the Sacrament of God’s mercy. Indeed, let us Grab on to the merciful Hand of God!!!
1. RESTORATION OF SANCTIFYING GRACE. If we were to have the disgrace of falling into mortal sin, we should never despair but launch ourselves into the merciful embrace of God’s love. By mortal sin we lose sanctifying grace; a good confession immediately restores the state of sanctifying grace in our soul—that is to say, friendship with the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
2. AUGMENTS SANCTIFYING GRACE. If we have not committed mortal sin, we can still receive the Sacrament of Confession. By doing so, we are augmenting, increasing, and intensifying sanctifying grace in our souls. Indeed, dying in sanctifying grace is our passport to heaven and eternal life! We should not be wandering around aimlessly without this passport!
3. HUMILITY. Indeed, God loves the humble, but rejects the proud of heart. To confess our sins well in the Sacrament of Confession demands no small quota of humility. We do not like to admit our failures, expose our dirty laundry, and simply admit that we have failed. Confession conquers pride and we practice humility which is so pleasing to the Heart of God, as we pray in Psalm 51: A humble and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.
4. SELF-KNOWLEDGE. Spiritual Theology, especially Ignatian, insists on the indispensable character of self-knowledge. The Desert Fathers have a two-word axiom: KNOW THYSELF! Having frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance serves as an indispensable aid to getting to know who we are—the noble as well as the ignoble, the holy as well as the sinful, the lights as well as the shadows and darkness lurking in the inner recesses of our conscience. Confession points out to us who we really are and it helps us to stop rationalizing, justifying, or even lying about our true identity!
5. COMPASSION TOWARDS OTHERS. Confession also serves immensely in our attitude towards others. A positive fruit of confession is that we recognize how low we can fall, how sinful we are. This serves as a platform and jumping-board to help us not to look down on and condemn others—in other words, it helps us to be more compassionate towards others. Jesus said: Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.
6. BECOMING MORE CAREFUL AND VIGILANT. Along with the fruit of self-knowledge comes an attitude of watching over ourselves, being vigilant so that we do not slip and fall into the same pitfall of sin. Jesus said: Stay awake and pray; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
7. THE POWER OF THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB OF GOD. The infinite reservoir of the graces that flow from the Pierced Sacred Heart of Jesus applies to the penitent sinner. Even though invisible, in a mystical but very real way the repentant sinner is purified and cleansed by the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Blood of Jesus washes our mind, heart, soul, and conscience clean of the dirtying effects of sin.
8. CLEANSING EFFECT. As just mentioned, sin sullies or dirties our soul, mind, and conscience. Contrariwise, Confession cleanses us. As the Prophet Isaiah points out: Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as the snow. ( 1) What a nice shower, soap, and shampoo does to the the dirty body, so does the Sacrament of Confession do to the dirty soul!
9. INTERIOR PEACE OF SOUL. All of us know from experience that one of the noxious effects of sin is that it really does rob our entire spiritual life of peace, a peace that all of us so ardently long for! Confession restores that peace. Dismissing the penitent, the priest often says: The Lord Jesus has forgiven all of your sins; go now in PEACE!!! May all of us be a living and breathing SHALOM—peace be with you!
10. JOY: REJOICE IN THE LORD. Another poisonous effect of sin in our lives is that it dampens and often destroys joy. Saint Paul commands us: Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord. (Phil 4:4) Often upon exiting the confessional a radiating joy can be seen on the faces of the forgiven sinners. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the story of the joy of the repentant son returning to the loving embrace of the Father. (Lk. 15) He was willing to grab on to the merciful hand of the Father.
11. LIGHTENING OF THE LOAD. Another hazard of living in sin is the incredible heavy load of sin that weighs us down. Confessing our sins to the priest who represents Jesus the Savior liberates us from the weight caused by sin. Jesus reminds us: Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. You will find rest for your soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)
12. LIVING OUT THE PASCHAL MYSTERY. By receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a good disposition, we live out what is termed The Paschal Mystery—the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. By this we mean, by confessing and repenting of our sins, we actually die to sin and rise from the tomb, and begin a new life.
13. LAZARUS EXPERIENCE. (Jn. Chapter 11) Lazarus was dead and buried, and in the tomb for four days. Jesus came, told them to remove the stone, and then in a loud voice cried out: Lazarus, come out! The dead man rose and walked out of the tomb, fully alive, fully restored to life! Jesus is the Resurrection and has the keys to life. By making a good confession, we are leaving the tomb of our own sinful life and walking in the light of the Risen Lord Jesus, Alleluia!
14. OVERCOMING DEPRESSION. Many suffer from acute depression today. We would be bold enough to assert that in many cases this acute depression is in direct proportion to the individual being immersed in the quagmire of sin. Being able to unload all of the sin and its guilt, depression often is dissipated like the mist of the early morning exposed to the sun.
15. FREEDOM FROM GUILT. Many today live with a guilty conscience and this can indeed be a real torture. Shakespeare highlights this point in Macbeth. As a result of involvement in murder, Lady Macbeth constantly feels the need to wash her hands, really desiring to be freed of the bloodshed on her conscience. In this context Shakespeare says: Conscience does make cowards of all of us. Indeed, what hell on earth it is to live with a dirty and accusing conscience! A good confession liberates us from guilt.
16. FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY. Jesus says that the devil is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. (Jn. 8) Also, Jesus says that sin indeed is SLAVERY! Jesus came to set the captives free!!! Free from what? Jesus (which means Savior) came to save us, to free us, to liberate us from the slavery caused by sin! A good confession smashes the chains and shackles that have kept us bound as prisoners!
17. PURITY OF LIFE, PURITY OF CONSCIENCE, PURITY OF SOUL. One of the Eight Beatitudes taught by Jesus is the following: Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. (Mt. 5:8) Sin is impurity, in one form or another. Confession purifies the interior window of our soul. As such, we can see God in this life through contemplative prayer, and we will see Him forever in the Beatific Vision in heaven.
18. MORE FERVENT, PURE, AND EFFICACIOUS COMMUNIONS. Related to purity received through Confession is that of a more fruitful and efficacious reception of Holy Communion. If you like, follow this analogy! Once a dirty window pane is sprayed with Windex and wiped, then the light of the sun can inundate the room much more fully. Likewise, the more pure the soul, the more abundant the graces in the reception of Holy Communion. Good Confessions help us to make better Holy Communions.
19. BAD HABITS DESTROYED. A bad habit we call a vice; a good habit we call a virtue. Indeed, it is impossible for us using our own natural resources to overcome bad habits, vices, and sin in our lives. Only God can do this! The most efficacious way is through frequent and well-prepared Confessions.
20. VIRTUES ESTABLISHED. Of course the opposite of a vice is a virtue. Good confessions can turn us from sinful, mean, and vicious individuals into kind, holy, and virtuous persons on the Highway of Holiness.
21. CONQUERS THE DEVIL! The devil wants us to commit sin, live in sin, and die in the state of sin so that we will be under his dominion forever in hell. A good confession is actually more powerful than that of an exorcism. An exorcism is a mere sacramental; Confession is a Sacrament—a powerful encounter with Jesus who heals us and saves us!
22. CONFESSION IS MEDICINE TO THE SOUL. The specific grace of the Sacrament of Confession is that it heals the soul of its sickness contracted by sin. Jesus is known as The Divine Physician. The priest in the confessional represents Jesus as the Divine Physician.
23. PREVENTIVE MEDICINE. Doctors will emphasize the importance of preventive medicine: getting flu-shots, frequent check-ups, blood-tests. In a word, these can all serve to prevent serious illnesses, or even diseases. Likewise, the practice of frequent Confession not only can serve as curative medicine, but also what might be called preventive medicine. Better to prevent a disease than to cure it; better to prevent a sinful pattern than to work at curing it!
24. LIVING OUT METANOIA!!! The first preaching of Jesus in His Public Life was that of conversion: Be converted because the Kingdom of God is at hand. (Mk. 1:15) If we really want to undergo a true conversion of heart, a true conversion of life, then Confession is indispensable! The third Luminous Mystery is the Proclamation of the Kingdom and the call to conversion! Saint Pope John Paul II relates this Mystery to the call to reception of the Sacrament of Confession as an efficacious means of conversion!
25. REJOICING OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY. A Marian note: one of the many titles of Mary is that of Our Lady of Mercy. Saint Pope John Paul II stated that the Marian Sanctuaries—Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe—are spiritual clinics. This means: these are spiritual hospitals where the spiritually sick can receive mercy, healing, and strength. Our Lady rejoices whenever anybody enters and leaves the confessional.
In conclusion, we have highlighted a list of 25 positive effects of the worthy reception of the Sacrament of God’s Infinite Mercy, that we call the Sacrament of Confession. God has extended His loving and merciful hand to you. Why not grab on to it, grasp the hand of your merciful Father, and make a good confession right now!
Father Ed Broom, OMV, is Associate Pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and was ordained by Saint John Paul II on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction.