By Diana Scott
Words cannot describe my feelings while watching Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Father Francis Odoom, Father Ken Kuntz, Father Stephen Page and Deacon Mike Sheil at communal penance. They came together to offer us the gift of penance and relieve our burden of sin that drags us down. That’s why so many of us were there on Sunday evening (March 24) at Ss. Philip & James Parish in Grand Mound.
Reconciliation means coming together in peace to experience this healing sacrament as we have come to know a loving God who, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, reaches out to us and patiently waits for our return. That is why we were there together as a community of believers and sinners.
The Scriptures provide clear direction as to how wandering sheep are to be found. Bishop Zinkula’s homily with a farming analogy touched on weak piglets and how quickly they would die if not found, nurtured and loved. Sheep and pigs are interesting creatures. They are weak, defenseless and, at times, not very bright — just like us. They wander away easily if not attended to, and shepherds need to be ready to respond. It’s no accident that God’s people are called sheep.
Sunday evening, sitting in the pews with an almost-full church brought to mind the phrase, “We are one body,” and that is how it felt to me. We tore down the walls of fear and chose to come together and confess the sadness and turmoil in our soul. The moment of grace for me was praying the Act of Contrition together. In unison, we were “one voice” and I realized I was not alone in my sins.
Here I was sitting across from a priest and, suddenly, I was at a loss for words. It was at this moment that the sacrament was the spark needed to open my soul and confess my sins. Doesn’t it seem like an eternity during confession, but in reality was close to five minutes? Then Father spoke those words, the beautiful words that lifted my heart and made me feel forgiven by God.
I had asked God for forgiveness many times before, but there was no one sitting two feet away face to face to acknowledge my suitcase of sins and offer absolution. It was easier to hide behind the confessional screen. This time I was face to face; it was right then that I understood when some people speak of confession why they used the term “reconciliation,” because you admit your failings to the core.
The priest placed his hand over my head and he blessed me. He recited those beautiful words of forgiveness. I felt so blessed and forgiven.
Although Christ already knew all my sins, I was admitting my sins to Christ, through the priest. It was a beautiful gift of sacrament for me with Bishop Zinkula, Fr. Francis, Fr. Kuntz, Fr. Page and Deacon Sheil.
(Diana Scott is a member of Ss. Philip & James Parish, Grand Mound.)