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Want God’s mercy? Head to the confessional

Fr Charles Cortinovis. Photo: Jameel Boos

By Emily Hunte

There is much healing value in regular confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be accessed at least once per month or more often if possible.

This was the view of Fr Charles ‘Charlie’ Cortinovis from the East Washington, DC, parish who visited Trinidad and Tobago in February for the 7th Annual Divine Mercy Conference.

Two out of the seven sacraments are sacraments of healing and while one can receive healing from venial sin in receiving the Eucharist, Fr Cortinovis said to effectively deal with sin in one’s life, regular confession is a must, as sin affects our relationships; with God, with others and with oneself.

He said when one knows something is wrong, yet does it, the rights of others are put below one’s rights and it leads to bad habits, wherein the devil “isolates us from others and from God”. The attachment to material sin, therefore has to be broken, and being aware that there can be no amount of penance to be done to make up for what has been done, God is still merciful and does not show us all our sins at once, he said.

However, being regular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when “Jesus hides behind the priest”, said Fr Cortinovis, opens us up to God for Him to reveal sinful traits and attachment to material gratification that can only be healed through confession.

Why go to a priest?

Announcing that as an ordained priest, he himself goes regularly to confession, he said God shared His power of forgiveness with the apostles when Jesus rose from the dead, appeared to the apostles and told them that they had the power to forgive sin. This is the reason one should never lie to a priest in confession, for the power of God is in the priest to forgive sin.

The priest is forbidden by canon law to reveal what is confessed by someone coming to him for confession, he said, and “The priest is only a screen”. He cautioned that one must never analyse what kind of priest God is using. He added, “Sin is never just between us and God. It is really important to reconcile with the person you hurt. The priest also stands in representation of the Church, which is everybody: the community.” He said if a priest breaks the seal of confession and tells others about what has been confessed, the priest can be excommunicated.

Fr Cortinovis said when healing is required from God, healing is required from confession first. Unforgiveness with each other is a barrier that can be put up which prevents us from receiving God’s mercy.

He said while Christ never forgot His crucifixion, He did forgive the men who crucified Him and confession encourages one to forgive others, just as one has been the recipient of mercy.

“If you don’t forgive someone, you’re carrying them with you everywhere you go…The obstacle to God’s mercy is not sin but obstinacy in seeking God’s mercy.”

Concerning sins one may think are too terrible to confess, he said “The Lord is able to forgive anything you bring to Him…the question should be what you need to bring to the Lord that will make you well.”