Only the glory of God surpasses the beauty of a contrite heart. Or perhaps it is precisely in the moment when the believer repents of his or her’s selfishness that we finally allow the infinite to enter into and transform the present. In this regards, a contrite heart is as beautiful as the glory of God because it is in repentance that the believer embraces that supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, repentance is at the heart of discipleship, and we cannot have intimacy with Jesus Christ until we learn to practice the art of continuous conversion.
However, conversion is not about a myopic focus on sin, as if salvation involves us analyzing and correcting our sins. While we must learn to identify and bring to confession our sins, conversion is as much about turning towards the infinite love of Jesus Christ as it is about rejecting sin. In this way, we observe our sins and name them so that we might possess the freedom needed to embrace our new identity in Christ.
Along these lines, the Church teaches that the heart of confession is not sin, but rather contrition. In addition, perfect contrition is grounded in perfect love. In this way, we learn to repent of our limited selves and our little egos to the extent in which we learn to open our hearts to the infinite love and mercy of the Father. In Jesus Christ, the will is nourished and strengthened to the point that it learns to say a perfect “yes” to the Father’s will. This perfect “yes” is nothing short of our being transformed into alter Christus, or other Christs, sharing in his relationship with the Father.
As we learn to say yes in perfect surrender, we receive the true happiness which is the hallmark of the Holy Spirit. All other forms of happiness are fleeting and temporary because they are tied to a world that is passing and transitory. Confession helps us to be freed from our temporal selves, our limited human horizon, so that we can come to possess our greater dignity as adopted sons and daughters in Jesus Christ. In turn, we learn to open our hearts to heaven and allow it to enter into our earthly existence.
Thus, confession prepares our hearts to participate in the sacrifice of the Mass. If we deepen our practice of confession, in time we will learn to deepen our experience of the Mass. Through contrition, we renounce all the lies and disorders which keep us from the Eucharist, which keep us from encountering Christ. A contrite heart is beautiful because it has finally realized its complete dependence on Christ. Let us dare to be so beautiful.