Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. + St. John Chrysostom +
Have you ever experienced the undeniable presence of Christ in Confession? He is always there, of course. It is not the priest who forgives our sins, but Our Lord and Savior in the Sacrament. I go to Confession regularly. Why? Because I am sick and need the Divine Physician. I quickly become burdened and weighed down by my sins. It reminds me of St. Paul, “I not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rm. 7:15). I get frustrated with myself because I am doing the same things over and over again. I know there are things that I am addicted to. I am not talking about just enjoying, I am addicted to them. I know that these things are not good for me or my family, and yet I still do them. In large part I do them because I feel empty and need a void filled. A void that can only be filled by God. This is how I walked into Confession this past Saturday: heavy and frustrated.
In the first place, I had to take my toddler with me because my husband was helping the Knights out with a fundraiser. My toddler ran around the Sanctuary while I prepared for Confession. I have to pick my battles. I can either hold her down while she screams bloody murder, or I can let her explore a little bit. When it came to be my turn, I took her in with me. I laid my soul bare and confessed my sins. My daughter climbed all over me, but for once, I was too focused to notice or even get frustrated. The only time I got slightly annoyed was when I could not hear the priest, who I already had to focus on because he has a Nigerian accent. What happened in that Confession left me awe-struck and thankful.
I felt so weighed down by my addictions that I felt incapable of holiness when I entered that confessional. Instead, Christ (through the priest for any non-Catholic readers) first asked me why I came to Confession. And I said in all honesty, “Because I am tired of hating myself.” Much to my surprise that was the right answer. We then discussed a couple of my biggest addictions: pride, anger, coffee, and Facebook. I was reminded that I am one with my husband and that pride and anger work against that unity. Something a lot of us forget as we live out our married life. I need a reminder often.
We then talked about my outward addictions: coffee and Facebook. Now don’t get me wrong. Facebook and coffee are gifts that are meant to be enjoyed. God gives us things to enjoy. It is when we become dependent or make them gods that the problems arise. During Confession Father asked me why I think that I need coffee? I said to take care of my daughter because she has more energy than me. He then told me that I don’t need coffee to take care of my daughter. I know this to be true because I worked horrible hours on shift for 3 years while I was in the Navy and never drank coffee. He then asked me how coffee makes me feel. And I said it gave me energy for a while but then I crash hard around 3pm and “need” another cup. So he then asked me what I should be drinking and I said water. He said we have a tendency to take things that we enjoy and turn them into needs and then they become sinful addictions. There is nothing in this life that I should “need” besides food and water to survive. I should not feel like I cannot function without a cup of coffee and more importantly, I should not be willing to sacrifice my principles to get a cup of coffee, which I have been doing. It is pumpkin spice latte season, which means that I have broken my boycott with Starbuck’s to get a lot of pumpkin spice. I knew that I was in trouble when my own principles were easily discarded.
I also mention these sins because they directly impact my family. When I spend too much time on Facebook, it hurts my daughter and my husband. I focus more on people I used to know than on the people God has given me right now. It is a strange phenomenon of our age that we can focus so much energy on a virtual world and ignore the flesh and blood right next to us. In that way I think that the Devil has taken the good that is technology and warped it into something dangerous. My husband does not enjoy Facebook. He does not like a lot of what his “friends” post and he knows that it sucks people in for hours on end. He is absolutely right. I get lonely sometimes being alone with a two year old and I allow myself to get sucked into the world of “adult” conversation on Facebook.
Coffee is also an issue because it impacts our pocketbook and my well-being. I am an anxious and neurotic person by nature. Drinking high amounts of caffeine is not good for my body or my mind. But, I truly enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning. The problem is that it is no longer a cup in the morning and it is not usually at home where it is much cheaper. I get into phases where I get a coffee out every single day. Within 10 days I can spend over $50 on coffee. When I was single and working full-time that was doable. Nowadays with a family, mortgage, vehicles dying (my husband’s truck is done), etc. it is not feasible. No matter what, it is not good for finances, my waistline, or my health. I said a lot of this during my Confession. I really needed to be brutally honest with Christ and myself. These are socially acceptable addictions and without even realizing it we can help enable each other in these addictions.
Then the moment when I knew it was Christ, not the priest, who was talking to me came. He said, “You can do this. You can overcome these addictions.” Given how I felt going into the Confession that day, my ability to overcome my sins was not something I felt capable of in that moment. And I have only written about a few of the sins I struggle with daily. The 7 deadly sins and I are well acquainted. However, once it was said, I felt like Christ had picked me up off of the floor, dusted me off, and said you can do this, keep going. I will be here to help you. I started crying tears of joy. The gratitude I felt was overwhelming.
Confession is not truly for God. Yes, we must seek forgiveness for our sins, but Confession is about our healing. Sin hurts us. Sin can kill our very souls. This disconnects us from Christ. We run in shame and fear. We get frustrated and despair. The Divine Physician knew that we need somewhere to unburden and unload our sins, to be set free from them, and strengthened by His grace for the journey. Sin keeps us from being who God created us to be. Sins are not a laundry list of things that keep us from enjoying life. They are a list of things to avoid in order to become the person Christ created us to be. Sin enslaves us. I know this to be the case. I went into Confession feeling like a slave. I felt chained and it was only Christ who could break my bonds. I left Confession set free.
Does that mean that temptation departed from me? Absolutely not. This is a spiritual battle that lasts a lifetime. I still feel the tug to do this or that, but by God’s grace I am saying “no” more often. And that is the point. Sainthood does not come overnight. Most of us do not have dramatic conversions. Instead it takes us our entire lives to overcome sin. Christ died for our sins, but it is our job to work to overcome the sins we committ in our lifetime. He will forgive us no matter how many times we have to come back and seek that forgiveness. As Pope Francis said recently, “Never forget this: The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”
A few more things to be thankful for today:
–All the new words my daughter is learning
–My husband working hard for us today and helping out the Knights after a long day of work
–My friend Ann watching Michaela for a couple of hours so I can attend a talk at church
–Second to last hormone blood draw is finished
–Pumpkin spice bread
2 Replies to “Gratitude in a Confession”
Thank God for the Sacrament of Confession! Thanks for sharing.
Exactly! What a great gift we have in the Sacrament of Confession. God bless.