Having correct theology is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual life. Without a proper understanding of our foundation in Christ and salvation, you will never be able to experience the full plan of joy that God has for your life.
For a while, I began to feel as the Beatles sang in Yesterday, that there was a shadow hanging over me and all I could remember was that everything used to be so much better and life prior to this epoch seemed genuinely cheerful—to say the least.
I tried everything, but nothing could seem to remove the asphyxiating fear and guilt that seemed to love wrapping itself around me. Body aching all the time, I even tried to deny God thinking He was the cause of my pain, but he was not. Lucifer was my enemy, terrifyingly and effortlessly pulling me away from God’s plan for salvation—not because God hadn’t already won, but because I refused to accept him.
Sitting at confession this past Sunday morning, Father explained to me that there are three reactions a child typically has when he receives a gift. The first is that he unwraps the gift, finds the toy and wants nothing to do with it so he throws it over his shoulder. That’s exactly what I had done for months; not because I hadn’t silently confessed my sins to God, but precisely because I was too scared and ashamed to go to confession.
There are some priests who can be judgmental and there are others that can make you feel like they’re too old to understand. But then there are others who really do have compassion and really do try to make you heal from your mistakes. It seems they could hear virtually anything and somehow find a way to return their gaze unphased. They really do see a human before them and has holy and sanctified as they are, they will share with you that they’ve made their own mistakes.
That’s how a good, no, the best confessional experience is supposed to go. You leave feeling like you can finally look upon the face of Christ again because it’s not imaginary and your religion is real. You sit before a man whose given his entire life to chastity—who prays and believes this more than you. He is a living representation of God the father before you, offering guidance, spiritual direction, and consultation.
This is the beauty of the Catholic Church. Through the stained-glass windows of our magnificent Cathedrals and the precious rituals of our 2,000-year heritage, you feel as though God is real and even as you doubt it, you can’t deny the reality of the belief that’s in front of you.
This morning I was blessed to attend the National Basilica for mass and after I was free from Confession, the wonderous ceremony before me confirmed to me that my opponent, the enemy, had been expunged. A demon that had made his home in my spine had been cast out of me, and as I heard the words of Jesus Christ before me I realized for myself what he had once said to a woman that ran up behind him and tugged on his cloak.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” –Mark 5:34
LORD, I am not worthy that you should have entered under my roof, but there I see you there and my soul has been healed.
I woke up from a nap later that day and it began to feel as if my life had flipped upside-down, or rather right-side up. Everything, all the pain I had felt, the worries, the tears, the shame, the guilt had been lifted off of me as if I was just waking up from a nightmare—one I felt I would never get out of.
That is what the sacrament of reconciliation does for you and the fact is even Protestants know that while they abridged the Bible to exclude any references to absolution of sins by a Priest, the literal translation of the words in the Book of James 5: 16-18 do not ask you to go before the elders of just any Church, but a holy and ordained presbyter—a Priest—who has been given power from Jesus Christ Himself, down by the apostles, and carried out by their successors throughout history. That is why no matter what you feel even if we can pretend just by saying our sins have been forgiven, mortal—not venial sins—will always require confession via a Priest. And even if they seem to be judgmental and unforgiving, they cannot deny a penitent absolution or they might face excommunication from the Church. And in any case, you can always just see a better Priest.
The glory of salvation is when you see, as my Priest explained, that faith with works is not really this terribly harsh thing the Protestants make it out to be.
The second thing a child might do upon receiving a gift is to joyfully tear away the wrappings, throw away the gift and play with the box. This child is missing the point of what he just received and is choosing not to use what he has received to its fullest potential.
The third child, however, does get the magnitude of the gift he has received and thankfully decrees that he will use it for good, to fight evil, promising God to realize the potential He has chosen for you. And every sin since that action is a rejecting of that gift, while every operative action is accepting that gift and proving to yourself that you have nothing to fear because He has chosen you.
I am saved, I am being saved and I will be saved because I’ve touched his cloak, I am with Him and He is with me.
There is no running away. Living a pious life for God as a hermit is not living up to how God designed our lives to be and that’s certainly not accepting His plan for our salvation. Monasteries look for people who seem to be escaping the world and tell them this life is not for them.
We’re living in a time of pain and condemnation from those on the left who’ve forsaken forgiveness in the name of political power dynamics. They’ve lost what it means to feel empathy and to seek a common identity for humanity. We cannot rely upon a fickle world to make us feel safe, but only the healing powers of Christ resurrected within our spiritual communities, carrying out as we interact and share His person with the rest of the world.
While the Catholic Church requires confession at least once a year, I’d recommend at least every 4-6 weeks for a healthy prayer life. Being able to speak to somebody bound by a Sacred oath never to share what he’s heard in your meeting, you’ll find the practice will realign you with the Spirit of Christ and help you to see right into the eyes of our LORD. Just don’t allow it to make you think you’ve become infallible, preventing you from seeing the hurt and pain in other’s eyes.
For the sake of my happiness and yours, I’ll be praying for a day when mainstream society accepts Jesus Christ again and recognizes the solution to all the world’s problems has been with us since the beginning, is with us now and shall be forever.