Posted tagged ‘temptation’

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.

Your Purpose In Life

November 7, 2003

I’ve been thinking more about vocations and calling and such, and it got me thinking about Jesus’ & Mary’s vocations. We only hear about the high points, but if you read between the lines, there were an awful lot of ordinary times in their lives. Mary was a wife, mother, widow. At a young age, she was raising a little boy, cooking, cleaning and being a helpmate to her husband, very ordinary things, done for the love of God, done because she knew that’s what God wanted of her.

Jesus Himself spent most of His life in obscurity. Sure, the shepherds and wise men came to see Him as a baby, and Herod wanted to kill Him, but then He was a refugee in Egypt, and then just another little boy growing up in hicksville (“can anything good come from Nazareth?”). Even when He had grown to adulthood He stayed home, working in the family’s carpenter shop. All through His 20’s, He lived a very ordinary, daily sort of life. It was only the last three years we really hear about, when it was time for Him to start His public ministry, to go off preaching and teaching and healing. But God used those 30 years in which Jesus was a “nobody.” They were part of the purpose of His Incarnation too. We can’t relate to teaching multitudes or healing people, but we can relate to doing a hard day’s work and going to bed tired. I think that’s part of the reason we don’t hear much about “the hidden years.” If we knew the details, only those who lived the same sort of life would identify with it. This way we can all think of Jesus living like we do, understanding our pleasures and troubles, feeling like we aren’t really making a difference in the world.

Looked at with vocations in mind, I think there are depths I haven’t explored in the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry too (see Matthew 3:13 & following and Luke 4 & following). First He was Baptized. He committed Himself publicly to God and received God’s blessing. But then the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. Wouldn’t you think that once Jesus had publicly committed Himself to God’s service that the Spirit would have led Him to the temple to preach? But instead He’s driven into the wilderness to fast and pray and be tempted. And those temptations take on a new significance when thought of in terms of vocations too. Jesus was tempted to use His powers to turn stones into bread to meet His own needs. We’re tempted to use our skills to provide only for ourselves, to just make money and enjoy it. Then the devil took Jesus to the tiptop of the temple and told Him to throw Himself down–after all, God would make sure He didn’t get hurt. We’re tempted to be presumptuous, since God said He’d take care of us–to not work at all or to just wait for our vocation to fall into our laps without our having taken the time and energy to discern and search for it. Or we might jump into an occupation without bothering to prepare for it, expecting God to make up for what we don’t want to be bothered with (there were probably safer, slower ways of getting down from the top of the temple). Finally, the devil told Jesus He could have all the kingdoms in the world in return for obeying evil. Boy does that one hit home today! If you want to “get ahead” in today’s work world (and sometimes, sadly, even in religious circles), it’s just expected that you’ll step on other people on your way up the ladder, cut a few corners here & there, lie to keep the boss from looking bad–you certainly won’t take God or your conscience seriously! On a more subtle level, there are times when we can see a good outcome, but think that the only way to get there is by doing something sinful. When I took an acting class, I was given a part to play in which I was supposed to use foul language. I wanted a good grade. That’s a good end, and there’s nothing wrong with my wanting it. But in order to get one, I’d have to swear (I refused). There was nothing wrong with Jesus’ wanting to rule the kingdoms of the world, either. In the end, He will rule them. But not by honoring the devil.

Only after wandering and suffering and being tempted in this trackless wilderness was Jesus prepared to actually start His public ministry. That reminds me a lot of the process of vocational discernment!

May we follow Jesus’ example by giving God’s answers to these temptations (it helps if we study the Bible, as Jesus did, so we know what God’s answers are–Jesus responded to each of these temptations by quoting Scripture!).

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