Sin is the ticket to hell
Fr Stanislaw Jarosz, OSPPE
Sin is opposition to God; cutting yourself off from God, revolt against God. Living in a mortal sin is a great risk; it means that you carry the ticket to hell. When we turn from God we are left only with what is not God, what is the condition of the lack of God, which is sin, hell, evil, hatred, ugliness, and slavery...
God, who loves us, is Merciful Father. He knows our weaknesses, our sinfulness. And that's why he gives us a chance to repent: there are confessionals in churches, with priests waiting for sinners; priests who are mediators between earth and heaven.
Confessing sins once a year is the absolute necessity, which allows us to be called Catholics. It is good that some people do such a 'wash of their souls' once a year. One should confess frequently and regularly, for example once a month and to make a good confession five things are necessary: examination of conscience; sorrow for having offended God; a resolution of sinning no more; confession of our sins; and satisfaction or penance. We will present them briefly.
The best thing would be to place the confessional in the middle of the church, in front of the altar so that the confession could be seen.
Someone goes huddled to the confessional, being ashamed that other people can see him and think, 'Mr So-and-so is undergoing conversion'.
He returns leaping with joy that God has forgiven his sins.
What does it mean?
Examination of conscience
First, pray before confession so that God could help you. Make an examination of your conscience recollecting the following: When was the last time I was at confession? Was the confession sincere? Did I not forget to confess anything important? Did I perform my penance? What sins have I committed since my last confession?
You can reflect what commandments you have not obeyed. You can use a book of common prayers.
Many people have problems with examining their conscience. They fear they cannot remember all their sins. You must strife to confess all the sins you can remember. You are not able to remember all your sins. You may not even know all your sins. God knows your sins and he will forgive them all, even those you forget and you do not see unless you meet certain conditions. The important thing is that you should do it honestly, that you do not tell lies; you want to plead guilty and confess your sins. In order to do it effectively and well you need to examine your conscience. An examination of good and evil. While examining your conscience you should realise what was the cause for the sin, how did it happen, what were the circumstances. It helps to make a resolution of sinning no more.
The best thing is to make a daily examination of conscience during evening prayer. I encourage everyone to do that. It yields wonderful fruit in your life and is some form of work on oneself.
Sorrow for having offended God
People often have no deep conviction that a given deed is a sin. So how can they feel sorrowful for having offended God? In other cases they have good intentions, but some sin was a pleasant experience and they think they do not have to repent. Sorrow is not only an emotional experience. Sorrow is to acknowledge the fact of sin, the awareness of sin. I admit my deed was a sin and I want to repent. Sorrow for having offended God is a decision. I have offended God, my best Father, my Saviour, who died for me, I rejected the gift of God, I thought I knew better than God what was good for me, God who set up a barrier, i.e. the commandments. Sorrow for having offended God will become something very evident when we believe that God loves us!
Sorrow for having offended God means condemning evil: I do not want to act like this! And consequently, another decision is taken - a resolution of sinning no more.
Resolution of sinning no more
I mean a concrete resolution of sinning no more and not a general one: 'I will become better'. In what - I ask. In everything - is the answer. Nothing doing. You should make a concrete resolution - in this and in this I will do better. I will do this and this in order not to sin. What is important is the readiness to change your life, a real desire of conversion.
The most important thing is to resolve to avoid occasions for sins. Having the experience of sin I will avoid situations, which can lead to sin. If you have doubts what you should resolve to do you can ask your confessor.
Confession of sins
In the sacrament of reconciliation you meet Christ, the priest is an instrument. Therefore, we do not say: Good morning, Father, but 'Praised be Lord Jesus'. Introduce yourself, say a few words about yourself, for example, 'I am a widow' or 'I am 25 years old'. Contrary to what you think this information is helpful to the confessor. It lets him understand you better and help you. The confession must be sincere, which means that you confess what you can remember, without any lies and implicit statements. We are often tempted to use such a phrase in order not to lie but at the same time not to tell the truth. When you lie your confession is invalid and sacrilegious. In this case you should confess the sins you have committed since your last good confession. God wants to forgive you and you think that you can mislead him. Therefore, you should call your deeds sins and should not speak bluntly. If you do not know what to call your deed ask the priest. Do not confess other people's sins telling the priest that your neighbour is awful, etc. If you can remember mortal sins, which you have once forgotten you should confess them at the next confession. When you confess all your sins you should say, 'For all these sins and for those I do not remember, I ask pardon of God with my whole heart, and penance and absolution of you, my spiritual Father.' Then you renew your act of contrition, 'Lord, have mercy on me' or some other prayer. You need not repeat it three times. It is enough to say it once. Instead, listen to the words of absolution the priest says (fortunately he often says it aloud) so that you can hear the acquittal. This is the absolution:
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The priest says: 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'. whilst the penitent makes the sign of the cross. Then say, 'Amen'. It is important for you to say that you accept the absolution because you can reject it. Then the priest will dismiss the penitent by saying the following or similar words: 'The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.'
Satisfaction or penance
Satisfaction is doing the penance. It is worth remembering that penance is not a compensation for the sins you have committed. If it were so, you would do penance till the end of your life. Through his death Christ paid appropriate compensation for your sins. He has risen and he wants and can forgive your sins. Satisfaction is an important sign of your participation in making compensation for sins. It fulfils a dual role: is a means of healing and a means to a better life. Satisfaction is to undo the harm you caused to your neighbour, for example, to return what you have stolen, to rectify false slander, etc.
It is best to do penance right after the confession. If you neglect this or forget about it, you should say it at your next confession.
And finally. The best thing would be to place the confessional in the middle of the church, in front of the altar so that the confession could be seen. Someone goes huddled to the confessional, being ashamed that other people can see him and think, 'Mr So-and-so is undergoing conversion'. He returns leaping with joy that God has forgiven his sins. What does it mean? It means that when you see that he has been reconciled with God and that God has forgiven his sins, you should forgive him, too. Otherwise you have no right to be forgiven and this is what the Church and we lack. That's why we stress so much the need to go to confession together - husband with wife, with children. Forgiveness is difficult and at first, you must experience it yourself so that you can forgive others.
Sin is the ticket to hell. Why should you collect sins then? The best thing is to take the shortest way to the confessional and to accuse yourself of all your sins in a precise and sincere way.