We've spoken about both the objective character of a sin and the subjective character of sin. Hopefully this will be helpful. Maybe it's just been confusing. If it's been confusing or you have questions just shoot me an email. You can find that email address on the About page. In this final post in this series I'll try to give some practical advice for the Christian life. Actually prepare before you go to confession.
Take the time to think about the manner in which you have been living your life. Identify your sins and really think about the gravity of each. Be honest with yourself. Be willing to admit to yourself where you are weak and where you are strong. Ask God to help reveal your own heart to yourself. Too often when we examine our consciences we neglect God's assistance. The Lord is the one who knows the heart. As a psalm says, "in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom." Implore his aid in your examination. "O God come to my assistance. Lord make haste to help me."
After going through this process get yourself to confession.
Go to confession as frequently as you need. In doing this don't simply think of confession as something functional. Think of it as it truly is — an encounter with Christ. We should think of the sacraments as acts of love. We should want to receive the sacraments because we love God not simply because of what they do for us. So, go to confession because you love God. Make this your disposition and it will be rewarded.
When you go to confession make sure you are faithful to the requirements of the Church.
Remember to name the sin, express its gravity, and the frequency with which you committed the sin. When you do this it doesn't need to resemble a shopping list. You can have a conversation with the priest. Remember, confession is not spiritual direction! If you need spiritual direction make an appointment. However, have an honest conversation about your sins with the priest. Also, you don't need to confess the sins of others. Exercise Christian maturity and take responsibility for your sins. Don't try to blame others for your sins. Only recount the involvement of others if it is essential for explaining the gravity of a sin.
Enjoy the sacrament.
Sacraments are celebrations. Celebrate the great mercy that God has given us in the forgiveness of sins. What a wondrous thing! I think that it is hard in our present culture to do this. It requires us to first realize that we are all sinners. Our society doesn't like this reality. They think it harms our self-esteem. I say, better my ego is damaged than my immortal soul be lost. I think we have so much anxiety over going to confession because we are told that we are supposed to be perfect already. We are told by the world that if we admit our sinfulness then we are somehow less. But remember, Christ came for sinners, not the righteous.
I think the main point is that we need to feel sorry for our sins and at the same time rejoice in God's mercy. If we keep this disposition in mind and educate ourselves then we can celebrate this sacrament well. Our God is truly a savior who has promised to provide for us in our deepest needs.