A recent poll found that only about two percent of American Catholics avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance on a regular basis, with 75 percent claiming they hardly, if ever, go. The American ethos of autonomy and the seeds of relativism which postmodernity has spread have contributed to the general anesthetization of a sense of sin, Christians not excepted.
When Pope Francis inaugurated the Holy Year for Mercy in 2016, he was cognizant of this troubling reality not just for Americans, but for the Church at large. If Catholics truly understood the power of this sacrament and the immense freedom it brings, they wouldn’t just occasionally receive it — they would run to it in earnest. A person must recognize his sinfulness as a first step. St. John underscores this point: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). The recognition of sin is the first step, but it is not sufficient.
More importantly, the individual must turn his gaze to the Father of Mercies, who wishes nothing more than to reconcile His sons and daughters to Himself. There, we see that God wants nothing more than to give his children the joy of being reconciled to Him. From there, one can rejoice exultantly. There is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents, the Lord teaches, than over 99 people who have no need of repentance.