O Happy Fault: The Beauty of Reconciliation
As Catholics, we are privileged we can go to any Catholic priest seeking the peace of being forgiven, simply confessing our sins honestly. This is a reality for us as Catholics because of the authority of the priest given directly through Christ. It is the sacrament of mercy that was instituted because Our Lord’s death and resurrection reconciled the world to himself, and despite our offences, he offers pardon and peace.
Adam’s first sin in the book of Genesis is superseded by Jesus Christ who by revealing the Father’s perfect love for us allows us, in the words of St Pius X, to “receive graces to overcome our sins.” Not only are we forgiven through Christ’s act of charity for us, but he also gives us everything we need to be drawn, by the holy spirit in this sacrament, to a place of deeper conversion. In this deepened conversion, the graces experienced lead us onto a “definite service,” as St John Henry Newman talked about, brought about by first giving Christ all the parts of ourselves. It is a tragedy if we reduce the sacrament of mercy to something to be feared and limit God’s graces by worrying about confessing and being intimidated by our sin. The doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, has a great reason why we should never let ourselves be discouraged in confessing no matter how frequent, as he says "there is no reason why human nature should not have been raised to something greater after sin.” In other words, every mistake we make may be used for good. We echo Adam’s first sin in the book of Genesis; we are healed by our saviour.
Despite how beautiful this reality sounds, it is not always this simple. In our sinful natures, we lose sight of how good God is and lose hope in God’s plan for us. As for me, as a first-year undergraduate, I fell into a plethora of sins during my first year, turning to excess alcohol, nights out and lust to name a few. I made decisions I knew I’d regret. Writing this now, I can say any mistake I made seems to have been transformed into a path to something good. However, it’s not easy to trust that these mistakes can be transformed when we are in times of temptation or desolation. I felt this was especially true when I fell into these habitual sins at university. The beautiful “charity beyond all telling” (sang in the exultant in the Easter Vigil) was so hard to fathom. It wasn’t the sin causing this per se, but my approach to overcoming sin. We must be proactive in making the right choices, yes, but my dishonest “fake it until you make it” approach, unfortunately, led to me being inauthentic and it created a distorted view of my abilities. This spiritual pride led me to confessing sins in a half-hearted manner because of my self-assuring internal dialogue: “come on you can do better.” I was I missing out on so much when I concealed the vulnerability of my sins in confession - which is indeed the precursor to the graces God gives us learning from these experiences and raising us to “something greater than we are,” in the words of St Thomas.
What has made a difference in my life is silencing the deceiving dialogue that I have of myself and soaking in Gods truth. This attitude has been freeing. It freed me from the pride that blocked me from coming to God with joy and gratitude at confession. I’ve learned we don’t practice faith; it is something that God gives. Our sin is truly our own, but the Church even says you can be at peace with this: “O Happy Fault, which merited so great so glorious a redeemer;” “O truly necessary sin of Adam destroyed completely by the death of Christ.” We have a teaching that objectively states that sin, although not intended, can be transformed by God. With certainty, we can say that - no matter how frequent or serious a sin is - we are always called to rejoice in our imperfections with certainty that they will be transformed. We have been redeemed and that mercy can heal any fault and elevate it to something greater than it would have been had we not sinned. I contemplate endlessly on these words - 'O Happy Fault'. If I truly understood them, it would change how I saw God forever, and I would never be discouraged from going to confession, as it is just another chance to give God glory.
Confession will always be a challenge in 'coming back.' It is hard to come back with the same childlike certainty in God’s goodness when there are so many other complications in our personal lives. Yet in our difficulties, we must encourage ourselves and each other to return to confession with joy and give thanks that the holy spirit has drawn us back for the best reason: a renewed relationship with God.