Take a look at the picture above. Thatâ€™s not a refugee camp. Thatâ€™s a crowd of people waiting for the last Twilight movie.
People spend hours, even days, waiting to be the first to view a new film. And it makes sense (not for Twilightâ€¦ maybe for Star Wars); new movies will only be â€œnewâ€ for so long, and seeing them first is pretty cool.
Now take a look at this picture:
You guessed itâ€¦ thatâ€™s the confession line at your local parish.
Obviously, confession is available far more often than a new vampire movie. Maybe itâ€™s offered for an hour or two every weekend, and if youâ€™re lucky, before every Mass. But compare those two pictures again. Have you ever seen a confessional line look like the line for the Dark Knight? Maybe around Easter. But on a random Thursday in October? No way.
Why is that?
Itâ€™s simple math to know that not everyone at a parish is going to confession every two weeks. Given the hours and the lack of attendance, they canâ€™t possibly be going even every month. Technically, the Church only requires the faithful to go to confession once a year, but thatâ€™s kinda like going to a doctor once a decade: youâ€™re giving bad health or disease a chance to gain momentum. Itâ€™s just not a good idea.
So whatâ€™s going on? Why arenâ€™t people taking advantage of this sacrament?
Because confession is a sacrament, and like all sacraments, itâ€™s an extraordinary gift of Godâ€™s grace. Itâ€™s the first sacrament we ever consciously received in our lives, the first one we prepared for. Itâ€™s one of the few sacraments we can receive repeatedly throughout our lives, whenever we need it.
The solace of confession is a gift in itself: we have certainty that we have been forgiven, and we have the grace not to sin again. We should been overcome with gratitude and overjoyed at being forgiven! Thatâ€™s so much better than stuffing our faces with over-buttered popcorn and vegging out for a couple hours.
We know confession will do us more good than seeing any movie, and yet we as a Church donâ€™t seem to value confession the way some people value the latest installment of whatever young adult book adaptation is in theaters these days.
So how can we value confession more?
Maybe we need to stop seeing it as a mechanical process. Yes, weâ€™ve sinned, and we need Godâ€™s forgiveness, but itâ€™s not so bureaucratic. (Just because weâ€™re required to go to confession about as often as we pay taxes doesnâ€™t mean it should be just as unenjoyable.) At the end of the day, confession isnâ€™t about the fact that weâ€™ve done wrong, or that weâ€™ve sinned, or that we donâ€™t want to go to Hell.
Confession is about loving God.
When you hurt someone you love, you apologize to them not to make yourself feel better, but because they donâ€™t deserve that hurt. Itâ€™s the same thing with God. We have perfect contrition when we regret our sins for Godâ€™s sake, not just for our own sake (which would be called imperfect contrition; itâ€™s not ideal, but confession is still valid). So even if you think you havenâ€™t committed any horrible sins, remember that youâ€™d probably ask forgiveness from your friends and loved ones when you simply hurt their feelings, and you wouldnâ€™t save your apologies for when you key their car or burn down their house. Right?
We should all strive to reach that point of perfect contrition because that means weâ€™ll be progressing in our spiritual life. Thatâ€™s also why people also stand in line for days for the newest iPhone: because technological progress means their lives get easier. Spiritual progress will do the same, but in a more profound and lasting way.
Our parish priest may not be a confessor like St. John Vianney or St. Padre Pio, whose confessionals always had crowds of people waiting in line, but that really doesnâ€™t matter. Christ is in the confessional, and His forgiveness is always there.
If you havenâ€™t been to confession in a while, go — and start making it a habit. The lines are probably short now, so you wonâ€™t have to camp in the church parking lot.
But the more you go to confession, the more youâ€™ll realize that if it ever comes to it, youâ€™d be more than willing to camp out to get this sacrament. Unlike some other things, itâ€™d be worth it.