We’ll stand and wait in line for hours in the scorching sun for ninety adrenaline pumping seconds of immediate gratification on the newest, fastest roller coaster. Television network news frequently report overnight campers in department store sidewalk lines anxiously waiting to purchase cutting edge phone or gaming technology. The biting cold of the midnight air isn’t enough to deter line standers after Thanksgiving dinner before the doors are forced open in a stampede of Black Friday shoppers. It makes little sense to wait behind one thousand “liners” for the world premier of the very same film that could be seen, frame for frame, three days later, without waiting in line. By most standards, grand opening lines are anything but grand and, at the end of the day, all things beyond the highly anticipated opening are just that – things of this world that are, like all worldly possessions and pursuits – subject to the decay of the earth and the passing of time.
This is not line bashing. I’ve stood in a line or two long enough to know that the bottom line (pun intended) is that most lines aren’t worth the wait in terms of time invested and what you receive when you reach the end.
Catholic lines are the best.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,” Jesus showed himself to his apostles. “He breathed on them, and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'” (Jn 20:19, 22-23).
Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus, by virtue of his divine authority, gives this power to men to exercise in his name in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1441).
The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin. — Pope Pius XII 1946 address to the United States Catechetical Congress
If you find yourself tempted to discouragement thinking that nobody cares about anything any more and the world has gone to you-know-where in a hand basket, take your place in the nearest confession line.
Personally, I’ve discovered tremendous encouragement and grace for spiritual growth in crowded, long-standing confession lines. I believe they’re positively indicative of a deep, abiding love for God and a personal awareness of the ugliness of sin which “is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him” (CCC, 1440).
The confession line is a great place to practice “sacred silence” so as to be receptive to the Holy Spirit and not disturb the prayerful recollection and examination of conscience of other penitents. It’s much easier to exercise the discipline of silence when we are not indifferent to Jesus, truly and really present in the tabernacle. Confession lines are an ideal environment to grow in patience and humility, unite ourselves to Jesus through Mary in the Rosary and pray with our guardian angel.
In the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the spiritual exchange rate of sin for grace is extraordinary. Here’s what a person receives at the end of the confession line: “reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace; reconciliation with the Church; remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins; remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin; peace and serenity of conscience, spiritual consolation and an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle” (CCC 1496).
Anyone conscious of a grave [mortal]sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion (CCC 1385). The more people that wait in line to humbly avail themselves of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the more people worthily receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; . . . he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and . . . abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).
The line that we stand in to receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an expressway to heaven on earth.
The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus (CCC 1391). In this union, venial sins are forgiven and the communicant is preserved from grave sins (CCC 1416).
With discerning faith a distinguished writer of the Byzantine tradition voiced this truth: in the Eucharist “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion]is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union” (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 34).
The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church (CCC 1407).
The Eucharist: “Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 59).
Confession and Holy Communion – it just doesn’t get any better.
Get in line.
Related Catechism: 1322-1419, 1422-1498
Examination of Conscience for a Good Confession
Copyright 2010 Brian K. Kravec