Fourth Week of Lent

Confession and Communion

Confession is a powerful spiritual weapon because it breaks the Devil's hold on us and restores our relationship with Christ. This is very good in and of itself, but also as the method of preparing to take up an even greater spiritual weapon: the Most Holy Eucharist.

Venial sins are certainly bad, but they don't completely destroy our relationship with Jesus and the Catholic Church. A practicing Catholic who has committed venial sins can and should receive Holy Communion even if he or she has not gone to Confession immediately beforehand—in fact, the Eucharist wipes away venial sins. However, it is still a very good idea to go to Confession regularly (perhaps monthly) and be absolved of our venial sins. This keeps our friendship with Christ in good shape and prepares us to receive him in the Eucharist.
On the other hand, mortal sins kill off the life of God in our souls. They effectively break our communion with God, and therefore they make us ineligible to receive Holy Communion. The Church doesn't tell us this to be vindictive, but to protect us from self-inflicted spiritual harm. Receiving Holy Communion when we are objectively outside of communion with Christ and his Church would be both untruthful and sinful.

Instead, we should go to Confession, sincerely repent of our sin, and receive absolution before approaching the altar for Holy Communion. By doing so, we will repair our relationship with God and restore our communion with him and the members of his Body.
Whichever situation you might currently be in, don't be afraid or ashamed! Jesus wants to draw you into an intimate union with himself through reception of the Eucharist. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is his way of getting you ready.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.