Q — How often do I have to go to confession?

A — It would be better to start talking not about the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation but about God.

Catholic Christianity has always emphasized the steadfastness of God’s creative and redeeming love, the conviction that God is Love (1 John 4:16). Love cannot coerce, but only invite. If God as Love invites us to intimate communion with himself, that invitation demands on our part a certain freedom, a freedom to say “No” to the invitation. In other words, human beings are capable of ineluctably and completely closing their hearts to God, of resolutely diverting the direction of their lives away from its destiny in that God of Love, and fundamentally of knowing exactly what they are doing when they are doing that.

Put very briefly, and in traditional terms, human beings are capable of committing mortal sin. Mortal sin is the conscious and deliberate determination to refuse relationship with the God who is Love, or to alienate ourselves from God. When we are in this state of mortal sin, we should go to confession, that is to say, we should seek reconciliation with God. The pattern of forgiveness for those who have committed mortal sin is through reconciliation with God and with his people through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

It is those who have committed mortal sin who need to go to Confession.

At the same time, most of us most of the time find ourselves committing what we call traditionally “venial sin.” By venial sin we mean the damage that we do to other people, to ourselves, and to our relationship with God, by our egotism, laziness, cruelty, dishonesty and greed. If we are to grow morally in Christ, then it is immensely useful to us, given that we commit venial sin, to seek the healing of God’s grace through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

A regular participation in the Sacrament enables us to fine tune from time to time our moral compass, to deepen our awareness of the destructiveness of sin and the endless generosity of the Love that God is.