December 28, 2011

Going to Confession Is Like Brushing Your Teeth

“Brush your teeth,” I tell my kids every night.  And why wouldn’t they?  Everyone knows brushing your teeth wipes away the detritus left in your mouth after a full day of eating and living.  Whether healthy or hedonistic, your daily culinary activities inevitably leave dirt, film, or some other undesirable gunk on your teeth.  Plaque buildup, dentists call it.  We all want to show others a brilliant smile, so we clean our teeth regularly.  It won’t make your teeth perfect, and you’re going to have to brush them again tomorrow.  But, for now, it expunges the day’s dirt and makes them shine.

Well, going to sacramental confession is a bit like that.  You go to confession to wipe away the sins that have accumulated since the last time you went, whether that was 40 days ago or 40 years ago.  It won't make you perfect and you're going to have to go again in your lifetime.  But, for now, *poof!* your soul has a brilliant shine!  Pure as the day you were born!  All your sins are forgiven.  Really!

Sure, you have to do some penance for the temporal punishment due to sin, but you also have to spit after you brush your teeth, to get rid of all that gunk you just scrubbed off, don’t you?  And you have to rinse out your toothbrush and wipe up the sink a bit.  No one is embarrassed by that sort of clean up.  In fact, in my house, that kind of tidiness is downright praiseworthy!

So seriously, regarding confession, why are you embarrassed?  Why don’t you go?  Who’s going to know?  I mean, when was the last time – in all of known recorded human history – that you heard of a priest running outside the church to put up a hand-lettered sandwich-board sign listing all the sins someone just told him within the confines of the sacred seal of the confessional?  He can’t.  Not, “He won’t.”  He can’t.  The solemn seal of the confessional is sacred, and the priest is forbidden to share anything you might reveal, no matter how mundane or incriminating.

Not anything.

And believe me, if you are a student of history with even half an imagination, it doesn’t take much to dream up some of the colorful offences many historical figures might need to have confessed.  I don’t want to name any names, but…..

No, never mind.  Let’s not add “gossip” to my own lengthening list.

Fortunately for most of us, there’s virtually nothing we can say in confession that genuinely would shock a priest.  Do you think he’s never heard sins like yours before now?  And if he has – say, from you the last ten times you were there – so what?  You have to brush your teeth again every day because you engage in a fairly steady daily diet, right?  Well, so too are your other living habits.  Fairly steady.  Same stuff, different day.

This, I think, is the other side of confession:  Am I too boring?  Do I have enough good material?  I mean, really, does Father want to hear for the forty-eleventh time that I yelled at the kids, took the Lord’s name in vain twice, gossiped inappropriately, and didn’t listen to my mother?  Well, I have it straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth that a priest would be appalled if every time you went into confession you came up with new and exotic sins to confess.  Just what sort of unstable eccentric life would you be living then!?

People brush their teeth every day to rid themselves of the normal accumulated filth that is detrimental to their oral health and inhibits their ability to share a sparkling smile.  We're all very attentive to the needs of our teeth. So why wouldn’t you take such good care of your soul?  After all, ultimately, your teeth just will be used for identification purposes when you’re dead.  Your soul will live forever.  And do you know precisely where your soul is going to live forever?  If you’re like me, you want penthouse accommodations, but more realistically will be enormously grateful if you even can slip in the back door to Purgatory, because then you’re only going up from there!

Remember who made you?  God made you.  Why did God make you?  God made you to know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next.

So go to the Divine Dentist, visit the Divine Physician.  Let him clean your soul.  Let him make your soul sparkle and shine like new, so that you are fit to reside in His presence for all eternity!

Don’t let pride prevent you from lasting peace.  Don’t let the devil make you think that your sins are so uniquely profound or insignificantly mundane that the priest is going to laugh you out of the confessional and then run to post them on Facebook.  This is a sacrament, not social networking.  What do you think the priest actually is going to say, “Weeeeell, I don’t know.  Is that your final answer?  Let me think about that absolution thing.”  Of course not!
With a good confession, true contrition for your sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, you will hear some of the most beautiful words in the English language:

“God, the father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins through the ministry of the church. May God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Please, go to confession.  Hurry.  Don’t wait.  Because Our Lord is waiting for you.  An outpouring of grace and mercy awaits you.


And while you’re on your way to confession, please, forward this post to someone you love, maybe someone who might not have been to confession in a while.  That way, years from now, you can smile at each other in heaven!

BONUS POINTS:  I found absolution in Latin!

Deus, Pater misericordiarum,
qui per mortem et resurrectionem Fílii sui
mundum sibi reconciliavit
et Spiritum Sanctum effudit
in remissionem peccatorum,

per ministerium Ecclesiae
tibi tribuat
et pacem...

Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis
in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

1 comment:

Lisa Boyle said...

Just beautiful! Thank you for this very important reminder that we all need to hear (read)!

God bless,