My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly resolve, with Your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, in His name, my God, have mercy.
Confession. To say that it is on my heart is an understatement. Confession is on my heart because I’ve had the pure blessing of watching 150+ children make their first confession. Confession is on my heart because I need it so much. Confession is on my heart because I’m always blown away that God would even welcome me in a confessional, much less forgive my sins. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write a mini-series on the act of contrition.
Catholics get a bad (though not highly inaccurate) reputation for regurgitating prayers. We were taught the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be and we can rattle them off without so much as a second thought. The act of contrition is no different. Sure there are different versions of the act of contrition, but we have a tendency to either rattle it off as quickly as possible so confession will be over or we read it from the paper in the confessional without giving it much thought. It is, after all, the Catholic thing to do, right?
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
I love that we start the act of contrition by saying God’s name. It reminds us who we beg for forgiveness from. It reminds us that there is a merciful Father in heaven who is rejoicing at the fact that we came to confession. Often times when I start saying the act of contrition, the most feeling goes into saying “My God” before I start rattling out the rest of the prayer (and, for the record, the act of contrition is a prayer). “My God” shows us that He isn’t some far off, distant God, but a God who desires to draw close to our hearts, a God who is personal and present with us, each and every moment.
The first line of the act of contrition is, I have no doubt, the namesake of the prayer. Are you truly sorry for your sins? Do you hate them? Are you contrite with your whole heart? King David tells us in Psalm 51 that, “the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Why should we hate our sins? Why should we be sorry for our sins? Plain and simple, sin separates us from God. A friend once described sin as being similar to walking hand-in-hand with God, but sin makes it so that we have to stretch more to continue to hold hands. Mortal sin tears our hands apart. We all have our sins that we seem to enjoy, at least in the moment. But when we take a step back, we don’t really love them because they separate us from God. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” Again, plain and simple. Sin separates us from God and apart from Him we can do nothing. If that isn’t reason enough to hate our sins and be truly sorry for them, I’m not sure what is. God loves us each individually more than we can even imagine, why not be sorry for our sins?