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Diocesan youth gather to receive forgiveness

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Hundreds celebrate Freedom and sacrament of reconciliation
By Josh Tng
When hundreds of young people gather excitedly in St. Patrick’s Church, the atmosphere is more akin to a concert than an opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. But for these youth, that’s something worth celebrating.
About 300 youth and young adults assembled March 10 to enjoy music, testimonies, prayer, and confession at the annual Freedom youth event.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, was one of the event’s speakers and spoke to the young people on the importance of embracing God’s freedom.
“Jesus wants to wrap his arms of forgiveness around you,” he said. “Accepting Christ’s forgiveness gives us a freedom that opens up out hearts and our minds.”
The archbishop likened the state of sin to being in a prison. “You can’t do what you want, you can’t interact with the people you want, and you’re obviously not free. Can you imagine being shut up in a cold space, not allowed to leave?”
We created that prison for ourselves, he said, “and we can’t get out. We feel stuck in the mud and feel like we can’t change.”
He urged the youth to seek out God in times of uncertainty and when distracted by sin. “Real freedom is the freedom to do what is good, which is ultimately what God wants. God wants us to be free, though it’s not the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, not having to obey anyone.”
A state of sin and negative emotions go hand in hand, he said. “Happiness doesn’t come because we want happiness itself. Happiness, fulfilment, and feeling whole come from (wanting) to do God’s will. When we don’t – because we all make mistakes – sin becomes a detour away from the road that leads to happiness.”
As ugly as sin is, it doesn’t have to last forever, the archbishop said. “It can be a steppingstone into forgiveness. God wants us to be free; he is happiest when he is able to forgive. But God can only show mercy if someone receives it with a ‘yes.’” 
The archbishop thanked his young audience, noting their fervour was a boon for the future of the Church. “You bring to us hopes, and enthusiasm for the faith – something that sometimes ebbs with age a little bit.”
He also expressed appreciation for their “fresh ideas for us to do things in a new way. The Church continues to grow and flourish because of you.”
The message of repairing the damage caused by sin was echoed by Sister John Mary Sullivan, FSE, who also spoke. “Although broken, whether unintentionally or by free will, all human beings are innately good,” she said. “No matter how wounded by sin we can become ... that goodness remains because you are made in the image of our God.” Acknowledging her own guilt as a sinner, Sister John Mary spoke on ways sin had ruined many aspects of her life.
“Sin weighs us down. We make choices that damage ourselves, damage our relationship with other people, and damage our relationship with God,” she said. Sin can also make people feel ashamed and sad, “but I think one of the worst things sin can do is make me feel very alone.”
Confession offers an opportunity to cleanse the soul and free the body of its burdens, and also acts as a step toward living a happy and holy life, she said, challenging each person in the crowd to “make confession a great part of your life. It will bring you through great temptations and it will bring you through struggles. It will allow you to remain loving and merciful throughout your choices in life.

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