Sacrament of reconciliation: The Throne of Mercy


Bishop Ricken

I am delighted that The Compass is dedicating a special series to the sacrament of reconciliation; especially as we look to the Season of Lent scheduled to begin on Ash Wednesday, March 1. As I reflect on this past Jubilee Year of Mercy, called upon by Pope Francis, I am reminded of how blessed that year was; despite the many struggles nationally and politically. The Jubilee Year of Mercy brought with it many signs of God’s generous love and mercy poured out upon the universal church throughout the world; and notably in the Diocese of Green Bay!

The “Throne of Mercy” is a common term the church uses when referring to the confessional. The “Mercy Seat” in the Jewish faith was the golden lid at the top of the Ark of the Covenant where the Ten Commandments were enshrined. This was known as the sacred place where the presence of God resided. The Throne of Mercy or God’s glory is also referred to as the place where God offers his justice.

In the Catholic tradition, which builds on the Old Testament and the Jewish faith, the confessional is the place where Divine Mercy is bestowed. It is the sacred space where we can relieve ourselves of all our sins along with the heavy burden that accompanies them. It is here that we are given the grace to walk away free, with a restoration of lost innocence.

Pope Francis reminds us often that the mercy of Jesus is not over just because the Jubilee Year has been completed. Mercy is extended bountifully whenever we allow ourselves to be open to the merciful love of the Father. The sacrament of reconciliation, confession, is a tremendous opportunity to be restored, refreshed and renewed in the spirit of the Lord. It rejuvenates us; setting us free once again as we continue our journey to follow Jesus.

The Mercy Seat of the confessional is where the priest welcomes the sinner to experience the merciful love and forgiveness of Jesus. It is the point where repentance and conversion meet. It is there we are once again refreshed to a 180-degree turn to restoration of lost innocence through the ministry of the confessor. Sins are explicitly forgiven and the wounds of sin are healed; and we walk away free.

All of this with no cost to you, unlike the role of the psychologist. God’s counsel is free to all who say yes to his mercy and love! The only cost to you is to express the truth, admitting before the representative of Jesus your sins, and fully entrusting that Jesus is present offering the mercy of the Father through the ministry of the priest who represents him.

Sometimes that forgiveness is quite palpable and profound.  It never fails, even if the sorrow for our sins is not very thoroughgoing. What a gift the Good Lord provides us!

If you have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation, I encourage you to please return soon; you will not regret it! The merciful love of Jesus is powerful, all-embracing and joyfully transformative!