I have heard it said that the three most important words in a marriage are: “I love you.” However, my experience in my 24-year marriage has been that often, before I can say, “I love you,” I must first sincerely say, “I’m sorry.” In fact, it is a rare day when I do not need to set things right” with my husband at least once during the day by apologizing for some impatient or unkind words or some inconsiderate act; and my husband has also apologized more times than we can count.
Likewise, in my relationship with the Lord, there isn’t a day that passes that I do not express sorrow for some thought(s), word(s), or act(s) that I know have offended Him. What moves me to express that sorrow is a genuine regret about offending Him, “because You are all good and deserving of all my love.” The Lord seeks to have spiritual union with us, a kind of spiritual marriage, but that union cannot exist for long if we are too proud or too fearful or too unconcerned to tell Him that we’re sorry when we offend Him. Often I express that sorrow as soon as I have sinned in some way against Him, but sometimes in the stress of the moment, I forget.
And so, once a day, I take the time to review my day. I begin by giving thanks for the patient, kind, peaceful, loving moments of my day, and as I am remembering those moments, I also become aware of the moments when I lost my patience, was unkind, or in any way caused pain to my husband, my daughter, myself, or anyone else through sinful attitudes. I ask the Lord to forgive me for those and all of my sins and to give me the grace to overcome those sins; and to also give me the grace to forgive myself for those sins and to forgive anyone who has offended me. What a relief to get those sins “off of my chest!” I feel so much lighter, and my closeness to the Lord is restored. Without that daily examination of conscience the wall between the Lord and me would get higher and higher. Likewise, in my marriage to Charles we often talk about our day at the end of it, and we “clear the air” at that time if there are any “leftover” hard feelings. Without that frequent “clearing of the air,” resentment would build and build, and there would be no room for “I love you’s.”
A daily examination of conscience is essential for our personal conversion, but it cannot take the place of the Sacrament of Confession, where we receive the most powerful grace of conversion. The Church only obligates us to go to sacramental confession once a year, but can you imagine a marriage surviving if the spouses only had one ritual act of apologizing once a year? The more often and the more deeply we are reconciled with the Lord, the closer we can draw to Him. It is reported that, on August 6, 1982, Our Lady, Queen of Peace, appearing in Medjugorje stated: “Monthly confession will be a remedy for the Church in the West. One must convey this message to the West.”
What does the Church in the West need a remedy for? I believe that reflecting deeply on this parable of Jesus from Luke 18:9-14 will give us some light on that question:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
If we think ourselves too good to need frequent confession, I believe that we are like the Pharisee, who “trusted in himself that he was righteous and despised others.” Through monthly confession, we can gradually become more and more like the tax collector, “who standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” We will become more humble and more trusting in the mercy of God, instead of trusting in ourselves “that we are righteous.” It is the prayer of the Little Handmaids of our Sorrowful Mother that the Church will be restored through sacramental confession in a spirit of humility.
I believe that the need for this spirit of repentance is growing ever more urgent. On July 2, 2011, it is reported (www.medjugorje.ws) that Our Lady of Medjugorje gave the following message to us through Mirjana:
Dear children; today I call you to a difficult and painful step for your unity with my Son. I call you to complete admission and confession of sins, to purification. An impure heart cannot be in my Son and with my Son. An impure heart cannot give the fruit of love and unity. An impure heart cannot do correct and just things; it is not an example of the beauty of God’s love to those who surround it and to those who have not come to know that love. You, my children, are gathering around me full of enthusiasm, desires and expectations,
and I implore the Good Father to, through the Holy Spirit, put my Son—faith, into your purified hearts. My children, obey me, set out with me.
It is also reported that, as Our Lady was leaving, to her left she showed darkness and to her right a Cross in golden light. To “admit and confess” our sins is a “difficult and painful step” that purifies our heart. It is that step that will bring light into the darkness of our souls. In this message Our Lady was clearly not speaking to lost sinners, but to those of us who have already experienced God’s love and are enthusiastic about being close to Our Lady. She is showing us the way that will enable us to come into full union with her Son, Jesus, and she is challenging us to be “an example of the beauty of God’s love…to those who have not come to know that love.” The light of Christ must first shine in us, purifying us, before it can shine out from us to others. It is the Cross of conversion.