The intentions for 2021 are centralized around the theme of human fraternity. Certain months have a clear tie to this theme. For instance, in July we are asked to pray for social friendships. Other months in 2021 present intentions that call for the Christian faithful to address certain issues facing humanity as a community, out of a sense of shared human fraternity.
At first glance, however, the intention for March does not appear to directly apply to this central theme. Pope Francis asks us to pray this month for reconciliation, that we may experience the sacrament with renewed depth and taste the infinite mercy of God. But what does this sacrament, so personal and private, have to do with human fraternity?
First, we must recall that human sin, including the disordered self-love of pride, is contrary to human fraternity and charity. We need the grace of God’s infinite mercy in order to reject this pride and return to humility, that indispensable virtue so necessary for human fraternity. The sacrament of Reconciliation cleanses us in this way: it is the visible sign of God’s mercy. Through this sacrament, Christ grants us reconciliation with God and thus, also the peace and serenity of conscience that results. It is only as children reconciled to their Father, with peace emanating from our hearts, that we can turn to love our neighbor. It is only with clean hearts, which have accepted the mercy poured forth from the Sacred Heart of Christ, that we are free to love our neighbor and extend fraternal charity to all our human brothers and sisters.
So what’s next? How can we approach Reconciliation not in shame and fear, but with the hope of attaining Christian confidence- the confidence of one reconciled to the Father who is now free to love? It is right for us to be truly sorrowful for our sins, but this sorrow must not be paralyzing. It must be accompanied by a well-spring of confidence in God and a firm commitment to turn towards Him and live virtuously.
As one Catholic missal explains, “we do not confess our sins to remain guilty…it is a child full of repentance who goes to embrace his Father. ‘I confess to God, for Whom I was made, and to Whom I desire to return’” (Roman Catholic Daily Missal, Angelus Press, 1962, pg. 845). So let us run into our Father’s arms, and openly embrace the reconciliation and peace we are freely offered in this sacrament.
- Katie Breitenbach, a 2nd-year master’s student studying theology at the University of Marquette