Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Thought for Tuesday, 23 September 2014

“When I kept silent [regarding sin], my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  Psalm 32:2b-5

The single, most challenging event of my youth was making my “first confession” (I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church).  It was made clear in our instruction that to simply acknowledge one’s sinful nature did not go far enough.  To understand fully the depth of our transgressions, we had to go item by item, sin by sin, and confess these sins by stating why we understood them to be sins.  We had to come face-to-face with our short-comings.

It was not easy not only because it was a very small parish (there was no way the priest could not know who we were!) but because we were forced to evaluate each transgression and how these adversely affected our relationship with the Lord, with the Church, and with one another.  It is probably the hardest lesson I can recall because the experience did not let me off with a slap on the wrist after a bland confession; the discipline of the Church demanded that I come completely clean. 

I confess to you, dear reader, that I did not come completely clean with the priest because there were just some things I was unwilling to say aloud.  Then I continued to carry THAT burden which ultimately drove the point of confession home!

Believe what you will about the Roman Catholic confessional, but the stricter point was not about the power or the authority of the priest to grant absolution (one priest said that we could fool him and even ourselves, but we could not fool God!); it was about coming to understand the destructive nature of sin in general and each transgression specifically.  There was no “magic pill” offered by which a simple prayer or a priestly benediction made all the sin go away.  It was coming to appreciate the depth of sorrow while in the Divine Presence and being endowed with the confidence of faith to know that while forgiveness is indeed only a prayer’s breath away, there can be no forgiveness if there is no genuine sorrow.  Indeed, why would we ask forgiveness for what we are not sorry about??

To confess that we are “sinners saved by grace through faith” is a thoughtless declaration that may salve the individual conscience, but it does little else except to suggest to others that our Lord pays no more mind to our sins once we are “saved”.  Quite the contrary, “whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath” (John 3:36b).  For those who claim to know the Truth, the bar has been raised; “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

We take too much for granted in refusing to confront the ugliness of our actions, our thoughtless and often destructive words, our failure to take time to evaluate each day in our prayers, and resolving to do better the next day.  It is not easy, nor should it be, to come clean before The Lord, but we have the assurance of forgiveness when we are completely honest with ourselves, with one another, and with The Lord.  That assurance does not come in spite of our sins but, rather, because of our confession to Him and our earnest prayer to be released from these overwhelming burdens.  Then our “vitality” which was once the “drought of summer” will become the “rains of spring” when we are infused with new life!



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