Monday, February 25, 2013

Why Penance?

Why do we go to Confession?  Why do we NEED to go to Confession?  These are a couple questions answered in the sermon I heard yesterday.  The priest, Fr. Terra, opened with a story of a man who was quite depressed.  He had lost everything, or so he thought, cheated on his wife who left him and took the kids, lost his job and many friends.  So late one night he downed a bottle of barbiturates and chased that with a fifth of whiskey.  The obituary was "kind" stating he died by "accident."   What this man really needed was the confessional!  He pushed God out of the center of his life and replaced Him with his own desires and immediate wants.  Humbling ones self before God and seeking true reconciliation from one duly authorized to grant absolution is what this man needed.  He could have united his sufferings in some way to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.  However small, however large our sufferings are - we can unite them to Jesus' Sacrifice for our sins.  Did this man die alone?  No!  His death affects so many others!  Not just physically, oh yes, his family and friends will miss him - but spiritually too!  This man, had he come before the Lord and begged forgiveness - he may have become a great inspiration to others, or even if only a small inspiration, he could have inspired others to come to the Lord - but he is gone, tragically gone.

Then, today I received a DVD in the mail from my mother-in-law.  It is Matthew Kelly's "Seven Pillars of Catholicism" - and pillar number one is "Confession."  Inspired by a story from that DVD comes the next paragraph....

Why go to Confession?  Because it gives you a chance to look at two versions of yourself.  The first version is who you are now and the second is who you could be.  Lord, make me more like the person I could be!  Every visit to the confessional gives you the opportunity to examine these two people, who you are and who you could be.  And we go to Confession and we feel so good!  A burden has been lifted!  But how often do we go?  Once every twenty years?  Once every ten years?  Heavens no!  (pun intended!)   Consider how you feel after you wash your car.  It's all clean on the outside, vacuumed and cleaned on the inside - and it feels great!  And what do you pray for?  "Oh God, don't let it rain!  I just washed my car!"  You're driving down the road and you see a mud puddle - what do you do?  You drive around it!  Why?  "I just washed my car!"  You come out one morning and it feels a little chilly, so you bring your jacket.  Well, as the day goes on, you find you don't need your jacket - and you put it neatly in the backseat, "I'll get that later."  You don't.  You go to the fast food place, and after you're finished you think, "I can't just throw this trash in my clean car!"  So you carefully cram everything back into the bag it came in - and put it on the floor in the backseat, "I'll get to that later."  You don't.  It's Sunday, you go to Mass and come out with the bulletin, which you've already read - and you put it into the backseat, "I'll get to that later."  Soon you have all sorts of little things piling up in the backseat, and you have this "big" thing you need to throw away - well, it's hardly going to be noticed among all these little things... it goes into the backseat.  That mud puddle you avoided, well, it's no biggie - your car is so dirty on the inside now, you just drive through it.  Before you know it, your car is a mess again - and it needs another trip to the car wash.  How many of you would actually drive your car in such a state for weeks, months or even years?  Yet, when it comes to our own soul, some of us will avoid "the car wash" for months, if not years!  Why do we go to Confession?  It's a spiritual "reload" for us!  It's a chance for us to examine those two persons - who we are and who we can be.  We need to strive to what we can be, even in little ways each week.  When we stumble, get a little "dirty," get back to the Confessional immediately and get re-invigorated to continue moving toward whom we can become.

Do not fear the confessional.  It may be an old cliche', but it's true - you're not that unique!  There's nothing you can say that hasn't been said already in the confessional.  Just GO!  You don't have to go all prepared to tell the priest volumes of details - just GO!  You just begin with telling him how long it has been, then you begin to list (not detail) the sins you are aware of from the time of your last confession.  If the priest needs more detail of a specific deed, he'll ask - but likely, he'll let you proceed through your list.  The burden that will come off your shoulders will be SO comforting!  Don't put it off, just GO!  

As for myself - I try to go at least once a month!  You don't have to have a "major sin" to confess to go to Confession - even minor sins can be confessed.  Like those "little things" you put in the backseat of your car, you don't have to wait for "something big" before you clean it out!  With frequent Confession, your spirit is "recharged" and it's SO much easier to avoid those "mud puddles" and keep your soul clean.

Matthew Kelly's DVD is free, just pay shipping and handling.  It's a GREAT tool to give to a friend, especially a Catholic friend who may have become a bit luke-warm.  

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