I thought this was rather good today.
My dear people,
In October last year the Holy Father chaired a synod in Rome to begin the Year of Faith.
The purpose of the Synod was to discuss New Evangelisation - in other words to discuss
how we can be inspired and how we can inspire others to follow Jesus Christ more closely.
On a number of occasions during the Synod great emphasis was placed on the importance
of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). I would like to share with you some
thoughts about this wonderful gift of healing.
For us to understand this sacrament of confession and reconciliation we need to discover
something of who our heavenly Father is. In the book of Jeremiah God speaks to each
one of us when he says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love and I am constant in
my affection for you”. Our God is a God of mercy, a God of compassion, and a God who
constantly heals us if we open our hearts to the love that only He can offer.
As I’m sure you have experienced sometimes it can be difficult to open our hearts to the
love of God. It can be challenging to come before the Lord and be honest about the
things we have done or failed to do. We find ourselves in this condition because of sin.
The word sin is a way of describing something that causes us to turn away from God’s
love; it is something which closes our hearts to God’s affection. As a result of our
sinfulness we become damaged: gradually we become uneasy with God, uneasy with
ourselves and uneasy with others. We can be divided people who are beside ourselves.
When we are like this we are not living life to the full, we are not the people we were
created to be. However there is a remedy, there is a constant source of mercy which puts
us back on track.
We all know that for us to be healed by a doctor we must first describe what we are
suffering from. In the same way, and more importantly, in order for the God of
compassion to heal us we must enter the sacrament of reconciliation and cry out with our
hearts, “Here I am Lord, this is me. This is the kind of person I am. I am weak, selfish,
self-centred, hurt, I am wounded, I am broken and I am in need of healing.” In this
intimate moment with Christ we examine ourselves thoroughly so that the love of God can
penetrate the depths of our being and we allow Him to bring to the surface all those areas
that are hurting and in need of healing. When they surface it is important for us to be
totally honest with ourselves and God. The priest then prays one of the most beautiful
prayers we have in the Church, in which he says to us, “Through the ministry of the
Church, may God grant 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”.
In this intimate moment with God we encounter the healing Christ who makes us whole
and helps us to look to the future with hope. This sacrament which today can be widely
ignored is essential for the future of our Church, for the New Evangelisation and for our
own salvation. God’s mercy given to us in confession brings us peace, joy and happiness
because only as forgiven children of the Father can we enter God’s Kingdom.
This week we begin the season of Lent, and so I have asked all Deans to arrange for
confessions in as many of the churches in the deanery as possible at the same time on the
same day. This is to ensure that there will be an opportunity for you all to participate in
the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. I suggested Wednesday from 6pm until 7pm
but this may not be possible in every parish. (If this time is a problem for your particular
parish then your priest will inform you of another time slot which will remain the same
I too will be available to you for the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St Mary’s Cathedral on
Saturday 16th and Saturday 23rd February between 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm.
I would like to encourage you - and ask you to encourage one another - to celebrate this
sacrament in a very special way throughout this Year of Faith. I can assure you this will
bring much joy and happiness into your life. You will be closer to God as a result and you
will experience His mercy and compassion in perhaps ways that you have yet to
With my very best wishes
Rt Rev Seamus Cunningham
Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle