God forgives. No matter how long we wait before coming to Him, God always wants us back. His Divine Mercy is infinitely vast and so completely available to us when we humble ourselves and ask.
I’m a convert to the Catholic faith, and at the time of my conversion, I found the concept of confession to be one of the most appealing aspects of Catholicism. This was because I knew myself to be someone who stood in desperate need of forgiveness. I acknowledged my sins, the worst of which were secret to almost everyone else in my life. My interior life was dark and chaotic, and I lived with vivid memories of some especially destructive sins, was reminded of them on a daily basis. I was full of regret and remorse over actions committed and actions omitted. So when I learned about confessing sins to a priest who could offer absolution, acting in the person of Christ, I thought this was my way out of the deep, deep hole I had dug for myself.
Having your first confession as an adult is daunting because you have so much ground to cover, so many years to look back over. And I did have doubts. Rationally, I knew that the priest had probably heard worse than I would tell him. But would confession really work on me? Would the forgiveness feel real? I made it through that first confession. I did feel cleaner, less weighed down when I left. I make it through confessions now, even though I can’t say that I ever look forward to this sacrament. But I crave the tangible grace that I receive and that I physically feel each time I go. Just like the first time, I often cry, speak with a shaky voice, sniff, rub my nose, tremble, and sputter my way through the list of my sins (usually scribbled down so I can read them off). I have often thought, wished really, that I would get used to confessing after doing it for the last 25 years – that the process would get easier, would feel less excruciating. But it hasn’t. And maybe it shouldn’t.
Reconciliation is a healing. Healing is a re-knitting of broken edges, and healing the soul and spirit can cause a violent itch just like the healing of wounded skin. What will that violent itch propel us to do? Or not do? God gave us the prickly feelings of guilt and remorse to prompt us to realign our priorities, to return to His ways. The Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can receive God’s Divine Mercy. We must voluntarily choose to suffer some tonic humiliation and demonstrate genuine contrition so that God can heal us from whatever darkens our soul. For as often as we fall, or forget, we can come back. No matter if our sins are one huge serious evil, or a thousand tiny repetitions of the same disordered human failing—God wants us back.