Monday, February 1, 2010
“Hey, have you heard about…” – Confession
Last week, my daughter received her First Penance, a joyful moment amidst an very hectic week for my family. While her dad was tending to our son in the hospital, I was with Grace as she prepared to confess her sins for the first time. She was excited and tentative at the same time. She wanted a clean soul, but it takes a lot of courage to admit you’ve made mistakes.
Grace did fine, but for others, just thinking about the Sacrament of Confession can raise a cold sweat. The idea of having to examine yourself, pinpoint your own failings, and then openly share these failings with another person can be enough to keep you away from the sacrament. Another potential obstacle to going to confession is the lack of understanding regarding what you are supposed to confess. There are any number of reasons why one stays away.
So,why we should go? What is the purpose of the Sacrament? What does God have in mind for us through this practice? With what spirit of heart does the Church encourage us to frequent the Sacrament? How will Confession help us better live our vocation?
Over the next three Mondays, I will be writing a series of posts addressing these very questions. As the penitential season of Lent approaches, I hope this will help you feel comfortable with the Sacrament, understand it more clearly, and be inspired to go more frequently.
What is the purpose? What does God have in mind for us through this practice?
The purpose of the Sacrament of Confession is to heal us from the infirmity of sin and reconcile us to God. “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-20) The purpose is forgiveness through the mercy of God. No sin is unforgivable if we are truly contrite and honestly confess our transgressions in the Sacrament.
God wants everyone to know salvation. Jesus, the Son of God, has the power to heal the afflicted; sin is an affliction of the soul that compromises the body and mind keeping them enslaved. When Jesus healed the paralytic in Capernaum (Mark 2: 1-12), He told the man to rise because he was freed from his sins. This was met with consternation by the scribes, who accused Jesus of blaspheming. Jesus reminds them of his power over nature by performing a physical miracle. However, the focus remains on repentance and the forgiveness of sins for the salvation of one's soul. It is a healthy soul that matters for eternity. Jesus is the Healer, the Redeemer and by His power, sin and affliction are healed and forgiven.
Not only do you gain the forgiveness for your sins, but also a better insight with regard to your own failings through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As you prepare to make a good confession, a proper examination of conscience allows you to see what they are doing well, and those things that need improvement. This will help you to pinpoint which actions are sinful and need to be confessed. On the upside, not every transgression is a mortal sin, although a caution to remember is this: small sins can create bad habits that may lead to deadly sin. Examining you conscience helps you to avoid the pitfalls of habitual sin.
Frequenting the Sacrament of Confession will often allow you to see the progress you are making in virtue. It will also provide with the direction necessary to make adjustments to your behaviors to grow in virtue. The grace of the sacrament will help you to live life that is pleasing to God.