Posted tagged ‘forgiveness’

Friends Help Friends Get to Confession

November 26, 2012

I’m one of those who leaves skid marks
all the way up to the confessional door…
every time.

It’s just a tough sacrament.

But we need it today like never before.

We’re in the midst of spiritual warfare.
This is our most potent weapon.

When you have made a good confession,
you have chained up the devil.
-St. John Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars

Confession fulfills the first words of Jesus’ public ministry:

Repent and believe in the Gospel!
-Mark 1:15

And makes the angels rejoice.

I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven
over one repentant sinner
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need to repent
-Luke 15:7

I wondered–
where does God expect to find 99 righteous people
who have no need to repent
when He says, “There is none righteous” -Romans 3:10.
Then it dawned on me that the people who are already in Heaven
are righteous & can’t sin anymore!
“Nothing unclean shall enter it” -Revelation 21:2

Growing up, it never occurred to me to go to Confession.
I didn’t know anyone who did.
Oh, I made my First Confession–about 2 years after First Communion
(so I never associated the two),
and the general message was that it’s practically impossible to sin.
We’re good people!
There were penance services the two years I was in a Catholic grade school, but all I remember about those was darkness, guilt and fear.
Somehow I missed the forgiveness part.

It was only in college that I went again–
when they had Advent & Lent penance services.
I was at the church every time they had an event,
so I went, shaking all the way.

I still didn’t get the forgiveness part…
but it finally occurred to me (thank you, guardian angel!)
to confess something that had a stranglehold on me.
That broke the neck of the compulsion.
Oh, it still managed to flail a few times.
Further Confessions put another bullet in its head.
I daren’t toy with it–it is still a weak spot–
but I’m not in bondage to it anymore.

There’s power in Confession.

From then on, I tended to go twice a year–
at the Advent & Lent penance services
(although there were still years when I didn’t go at all).
And every time it was like pulling teeth.

I didn’t know what to say…
(or if I did–well, if you’ve gone, you know!)

In every other sacrament, the words are given to you.
In Confession, you have to come up with your own.

Take with you words and return to the Lord
-Hosea 14:3

I read through every examination of conscience I could get my hands on.
I read books on Confession.
I asked priests for help.

One finally said, “try coming more often.”
I gaped like a goldfish.
If I don’t know what to say twice a year
how on earth am I going to know what to say more often!

But it was something I hadn’t tried yet…(!)

And when I learned about indulgences
& that the Confession requirement for a plenary (souls out of purgatory!)
is covered if you go to Confession every two weeks,
I set that as a goal.
If I can’t get up the nerve for my own sake,
at least I can help somebody else!
(‘course, going to Confession helps everybody who has to deal with you! ;))

I don’t always make it.
Some weeks there are too many other people waiting to go
(wouldn’t want to compete, or anything!)
but usually it’s just a lack of words.
And I still leave skid marks every time.
Nor do I feel the euphoria most people report afterward.

I just go anyway.

This is definitely a work in progress,
and I expect it will be for the rest of my life.

But my life is changing, one wrestled-through Confession at a time.
Every time I go, I’m exposing my soul to the very graces I need
to overcome the sins I just confessed.
Asking every two weeks,
“so, where did I go wrong this time?”
motivates me to steer clear of “slippery slopes”
that put me at risk.
And just knowing Confession is coming up
gives me another weapon against temptation–
“oh no you don’t! I don’t want to have to confess that again!”

It’s a good thing.
It’s something I want for my friends, as hard as it is.
Let’s help each other.

As We Forgive?

November 7, 2003

The gospel this morning (Luke 16:1-8) was the one about the shrewd steward who reduced the debts of his master’s debtors, one that I’ve long puzzled over. Father’s homily gave me a new perspective. He emphasized the steward’s generosity, conniving as it was, in decreasing those debts, especially since the part of the debt that he forgave was probably what was due to him–his commission on the loan. Father assumed that the master let the steward keep his job. While Scripture doesn’t exactly say that (it just says his master gave him credit for being enterprising), if that were true it would parallel that version of the Our Father that says “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” That sort of jumped out at me today. As the steward forgave the debts owed to him, his master forgave him the debt he owed.

That also puts that line of the Our Father in a new light. Even as we look askance at the steward for giving up his commission only because he wanted to save his skin, so we might look askance at ourselves for only forgiving in order to be forgiven in return. It’s enough of a step in the right direction for God to accept it, but we could do a whole lot better!


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