“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry…”
Generally, when I begin to pray the Act of Contrition in Confession, I close my eyes. I prefer to go behind the screen and I like to close my eyes so I can focus on the words. As I started the prayer, I realized that the confessional I was using had a crucifix hanging on the screen at about eye level.
“for having offended Thee…”
My eyes shifted and fastened on Jesus. There He was, arms outstretched and pierced by nails. His total gift stood in stark contradiction to my selfishness and inability to sacrifice. Yet as I spoke the words directly to Him, I was struck by the rightness of it all.
“I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell…”
My sin crucified Him. And though there was nothing new that I was learning, I was seeing in a deeper way what my sin brought about. Here I was, staring at the very reality that made the words I was saying efficacious. Without His death, my words were a vain pleading for reconciliation without paying the debt.
“But most all because I offended Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love…”
Here my selfishness and pride was confronted with the price of its redemption. The One who is completely and totally good, laid down His life for me. The One who deserves all my love, forgives me when I am miserly with my love. It reminded me of a time when I went to Mass and, looking at Our Lord on the cross, heard Him say to me, “What more?” What more could He have done for me? What else is needed for me to surrender totally to Him? What else is necessary for me to give Him my whole heart?
“I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, do penance, and to amend my life.”
Rising from the confessional, I was filled with a desire to be His. The God-man hanging on the cross for my sins was not condemning me; He was calling me to accept what He died to give me. The radicality of the cross was face-to-face with my mediocrity. Jesus pierced to the cross is what doing the Father’s will looks like. Despite the starkness of it, there is a tremendous simplicity in it: accept all the Father offers with open hands and open arms. He will provide the graces necessary for it all. In the midst of His deluge of grace, freedom is found.