Both today's First Reading from Jeremiah 31 and today's Psalm 51 focus on God's forgiveness.
In the First Reading, God promises His forgiveness as part of the New Covenant:
All, from least to greatest, shall know Me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
In the psalm, the psalmist responds to God's offer of forgiveness, crying out for His mercy and compassion. The psalmist asks God to wipe away his guilt, to create a clean heart and a renewed spirit in him, to renew His presence in him, and to give him salvation. These words echo the cry of our hearts, which long for forgiveness and for intimate relationship with God.
How do we receive this forgiveness from God? As Catholics, we have access to God's wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This Sacrament can sometimes seem intimidating and even scary, but we must remember, first and foremost, that there are no limits to God's mercy. He extends His hand and His love to sinners who turn to Him with repentant hearts, and He never turns people away from Him.
But we must also understand that we are sinners who often damage and sometimes even break our relationship with God. Catholic theology distinguishes venial sins (less serious sins that damage our relationship with God) and mortal sins (serious sins that actually break our relationship with God and deprive us of sanctifying grace).
God forgives venial sins in many different ways. Holy Communion burns away our venial sins in the fire of God's love. Our prayers of repentance obtain forgiveness for venial sin as do sacramentals like holy water, and of course, we are always invited to confess our venial sins in sacramental confession to receive that special outpouring of grace that God gives through the sacrament. Our Lord is always waiting for us to come to Him for forgiveness so that our relationship with Him may be mended and strengthened.
For mortal sins, which break our relationship with God, the process of reconciliation typically requires sacramental confession. Catholics are required to confess all of their mortal sins in kind and in number during sacramental confession. When we receive absolution during the sacrament, we can be certain that, if we are repentant and have completely confessed our mortal sins, God has indeed forgiven us, wrapped us in His loving arms, and poured His grace and Himself into our souls.
God is waiting for us. He longs for us to come to Him with repentant hearts and confess our sins. He is not waiting to punish us but to forgive us. Lent is the perfect time to run into God's loving arms. God is waiting to pour out His grace upon us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Be sure to schedule a time to meet Him there with an open and contrite heart to receive His forgiveness, His grace, and His great love.