There is no better way to get students excited about the faith than to discuss the doctrine of sin and confession. For some reason students would perk up when the doctrine of the day was sin because as one of my students asked me many years ago: “How long can I get away with something before its actually called a sin?” If you surmise that what I just wrote is fabrication, think again. Regardless of the age, I have been asked this question on multiple occasions from various age groups especially young adults. When you associate sin with confession, the conversation can turn south very quickly unless you provide substantive proof that there is a Trinitarian and Christological value in the sacrament of reconciliation one where the soul is united more intimately with Christ while at the same time dispelling the works of the devil.
When I broached the doctrine of reconciliation to my class and explained the biblical, historical, and doctrinal foundations of the sacrament especially the forgiveness of sins one of my students boldly asked me: “When was the last time you went to confession Mr. D?” The moment the question was dropped there was dead silence in the room and all eyes were fixed on my response which could have lasting consequences toward the ongoing development of my student’s Catholic world view. As I slowly turned my attention to him and received his “gotcha” look I calmly told him: “last night at the parish penance service.” Stunned by my response he immediately yelled: “that’s not fair!” After brief pause with the entire class sensing that their fellow comrade had gone down in doctrinal flames, I asked him if he attended the penance service the previous night. No response. As soon as it became evident to the entire class that I actually practiced my faith and truly loved Jesus Christ, I had their attention and they immediately knew I was genuinely concerned for the salvation of their souls.
The Love of Jesus Christ
In his great catechetical masterpiece, The Lord, Romano Guardini lovingly and vividly initiates us into the life of Jesus Christ and provides us with a clear view of God’s love for His children through His Son Jesus Christ. There is a particular section where Guardini encapsulates Christ’s salvific message and our responsibility to respond to this message in faith:
Faith means to see and to risk accepting Christ not only as the greatest teacher of truth ever lived, but as Truth itself. Sacred reality begins with Jesus of Nazareth. If it were possible to annihilate him, the truth he taught would not continue to exist in spite of the loss of its noblest apostles, but itself would cease to exist. For he is the Logos, the source of Living Truth. He demands not only that we consent intellectually to the correctness of his proclamation-that would be only a beginning-but that we feel with all our natural instinct for right and wrong, with heart and soul and every cell of our being, its claims upon us . . . Religion tells me that I have been created; that I am continuously receiving myself from divine hands that I am free yet living from God’s strength. Try to feel your way into this truth, and your whole attitude towards life will change.
Guardini’s premise of faith in Jesus Christ is to demonstrate Christ as Truth par excellence. The subject of Jesus is not limited to a human figure. He is realized as both fully human and fully divine in the Hypostatic union, this was the revelation that God sought to reveal to His Children. God so loved the world and His children that He was willing to offer His only-begotten Son so that mankind would not fall prey to the horrors of sin but enter into eternal life with Him.
The risk of the proclamation of Jesus Christ
With the intention of God, the Father offering His son for the salvation of humanity there does involve a certain risk with the Divine Pedagogue’s actions that we are called to imitate through His Son Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the Good News involves the revelation of the Truth of Jesus Christ-an act of faith that at some point will be rejected and even attacked. Guardini comments:
No matter what Jesus did-heal, help, pardon, shower with gifts-his thanks were hardness of heart, calumny, misinterpretation of his motives, blasphemy against the spirit.
This is why the act of faith is intimately associated with the act of redemptive suffering where our entire relationship with Jesus Christ involves our own walk toward Calvary. Another aspect of risk is the knowledge that you and I must not put on a false face when we proclaim Jesus Christ crucified. The willingness to proclaim Jesus Christ requires a willingness to suffer for the Son of God the Word made flesh. All of us are called to toward our daily entrance into Jerusalem, this is part of the act of faith encompassed within the kerygma and the creed. It is how our intimate union with Christ is strengthened by way of our daily entrance into Jerusalem which culminates in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is love par excellence and where we experience the heart speaking to the heart.
Heart speaks to the heart
If there is a singular moment when a person openly responds in trust to have an active relationship with Jesus Christ it is when he knows that he is genuinely loved and cared for. Why, because he experiences a love that expects nothing in return because of its sacrificial charism. Every time we engage someone in conversation about Jesus Christ, or teach someone about Jesus Christ, our aim is to unite the soul of the person to Jesus Christ on Calvary. In Calvary we witness authentic love personified, it is the Trinitarian reality of the heart speaking to the heart.
When my student asked me if I had been to confession, he was actually looking for someone to provide him with the conviction to go and confess his sins. And in fact, this particular student did indeed go to confession and invited his entire family to join him. All he wanted to know was that there was someone who actually believed and would care enough to lead him.
St. John Henry Newman emphasized the methodology of the heart to bring an authentic testimony of the love Jesus Christ has for all mankind. Our desire to love our fellow brother in Christ must never dim but be constantly lit at all times. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides us with a fitting summary of how the heart speaks to the heart:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective that to arrive at love.