Friday, February 21, 2014

Pope Francis and the amazing sacrament of Confession....a true story...

Today I'm going to talk about a touchy subject, mostly among fellow Catholics, because most non- Catholics have just labeled Catholics as crazy when we feel it necessary to spill our sins to a priest behind closed doors instead of just having a private conversation with God, one on one.  Fellow Catholics tend to think Confession is outdated, unnecessary and quite frankly, who does bad things anymore, right?

Well, since I'm being so raw and honest I'll just confess.  Unless I'm the only sinner left on earth (well, me, my husband and all my kiddos) we all do bad things.  We all do bad things, and quite frankly, we do them really good....

Because let's face it- if sin was sooooo bad, meaning, if it looked gross, scary, life threatening, friendship ruining, soul sacrificing, let's throw our chance at Heaven out the door, why don't I just go ahead and punch my ticket to hell- we wouldn't touch it, would we?   (well, some of my kids might, but that would only be because I said not too, and teaching that defiance is wrong has been rather difficult for some of mine to grasp.....)

But sin is packaged beautifully.  Sin is packaged in such a way, that to be quite honest, unless we really pray and look to God for serious guidance, we can easily convince ourselves that our choices are exactly what God wants for us.  In fact, what we might think is "ok, no one is getting hurt, I'm happier for this decision," might be the very sin that Satan wants you to say yes too, because ultimately, it makes you in charge and consulting the God of the Universe would be trivial after choosing that perfect little wrapped package of "goodness"....

Do you follow me?  If not, no worries, I rarely follow myself and if you hold on, you'll at least go on one heck of a roller coaster and perhaps laugh a time or two and maybe before it's over it'll make sense, either that, or you can just tell people how you'll NEVER get that time back....ever.... :)

Let me make myself a tad more clear.....

The sacrament of Confession, Penance, Reconciliation (whatever you choose to call it) is very relevant today and very, very, very spiritually, and I'll even say, physically, emotionally, and perhaps even psychologically healing....I shall give a few points to ponder as to why, but first I want to tell everyone what the Pope talked about Wednesday at the general audience in Rome at St. Peter's Basilica.  Funny thing, most of the media took a vacation on Wednesday from reporting what Pope Francis said and that affirms for me all the more that what he said was and is completely relevant to today's world.

He spoke about the beauty of confession.  He defended why we do it and why it's not enough to just tell God your sorry, between you and Him.  Whoa.  Seriously?  Can you imagine - first of all, I can, because I've stood in St. Peter's Basilica and HEARD another fabulous Pope address us and let me tell you, there are very few things in my life, other than the birth of all my children, that could top that.
Then, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to go to confession!!!!

Here are a few excerpts from what he spoke Wednesday(February 19, 2014 if you're interested in his papal audience talks).

 “The Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation [...] flow directly from the Paschal mystery…In fact, the same evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, closed in the Cenacle, and, after addressing to them the greeting ‘Peace be with you’, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven.’ (Jn 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic contained in this Sacrament.”

He also spoke about how when we sin it's not just between us and God-this is crucial-

“Someone may say: ‘I confess only to God.’ Yes, you can tell God: ‘Forgive me’, and say your sins,” he said. “But our sins are also against the brothers, against the Church, and for this it is necessary to ask forgiveness to the Church and to the brothers, in the person of the priest.”

He also was so sweetly encouraging in the fact that he told the people to not be afraid!!!!  And I gotta tell you, this is something I fight every time I go to confession!!!!

 “Do not be afraid of Confession!  One who is in line to confess himself feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves free, great, beautiful, forgiven, [...] happy. And this is the beauty of Confession.”

I took the direct comments he made from CatholicVote, but you can find his audience talks here-

So with the Pope encouraging us, I thought it would be a great time to share how this Sacrament of Healing really is a Sacrament of healing.  I'm going to be bold and raw and I know I will say things that some won't understand or may think wrong of me, but it is what it is and I believe this sacrament is that important.

Ok, my story starts about a month or two ago.  (We usually make it a habit to attend confession as a family, once a month, but as of late, it's become increasingly more difficult because of the children's' sports schedules....we will be making adjustments to that very soon...)

I knew I needed to go to confession, but I kept putting it off.  I kept making excuses.  Well, sin has a great way of convincing us that little sins don't really add up.  Yelling at my kids, swearing, taking God's name in vain, coveting my neighbor's things, jealously, a slothful prayer life, fighting with my husband, not treating others the way I want to be treated, perhaps misusing Natural Family Planning, lying, avoiding people because I just don't want to have "that" conversation.  Week after week, pile after pile, and eventually what happens to my heart?  That once clean, open, shining heart with the light of Jesus in it, had become dark, extinguished, and dismal.  I was hateful, negative, jealous, angry, tired, moody, and above all, mad at God.  You know, cause it's all HIS fault I'm such a sloth, right?   Right. 

As my heart grew darker, my prayer life grew dimmer.  My thoughts that would normally turn to God, turned to darkness, bitterness, loneliness as I convinced myself that I was the only human being on the planet that was being so bombarded with this heavy burden of sin.....which, ironically, I had convinced myself wasn't even was just a dark time for me....

What I missed was the fact that every time I go to confession and I sit there before the priest who is actually sitting there before God, I am not only being absolved of my sins, but I am receiving something that only God Himself can give me!  GRACE!  That grace helps me to be strong and avoid temptation!  Now, unfortunately, grace doesn't last forever because as humans, we are drawn to sin- remember the pretty package?  It just takes a small look and before we know it, we're waist deep in it and even faster than that, we're sinking in the cesspool of sin....

Today I finally had an appointment with a priest at my church.  He's a very humble man, who really has an incredible story of how he came to the priesthood, and he's such a great priest to go to for confession.  I had made the appointment with the intent to "discuss" all my "burdens" and perhaps make a good confession- but he suggested I confess first and then talk. 

Well, I started.  And let me tell you, once I blubbered through all that I had done (and let me tell you, with six children, one husband, a few crazy friends, family and countrymen in my life, my list isn't short by any means....) I prayed my Act of Contrition and received absolution.

I sat back after being absolved and he encouraged me to talk about what was bothering me.  The funniest thing- we discussed a few of the things I had confessed (that we didn't discuss during the actual confession- which by the way took an HOUR!) but suddenly, all the drama that had been weighing on my heart like a thousand pound brick, seemed trivial and almost silly.  Some of it was still very serious, but I could see it with such clarity that I felt I could handle what I needed to do. 

The Sacrament of Healing.  Believe me when I say, it was a healing.  I felt spiritually healed.  I felt mentally healed (ok, disclaimer- when I say mentally healed, I mean the things that were causing me anxiousness, stress, etc, seemed to be lifted- not mental illness....). I felt emotionally healed.  

Confession to me is like receiving a really big hug from Jesus as He cleans my heart out again and again, and again.  So, today, I feel cleansed.  I feel new again.  I feel refreshed.  Pope Francis encouraged all to go to confession- no matter how long it had been.  I'll leave with the last thing he spoke about which is just beautiful....

"Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being enfolded in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us recall that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the money of his inheritance. He wasted all the money and then, when he had nothing left, he decided to return home, not as a son but as a servant. His heart was filled with so much guilt and shame. The surprise came when he began to speak, to ask for forgiveness, his father did not let him speak, he embraced him, he kissed him, and he began to make merry. But I am telling you: each time we go to confession, God embraces us. God rejoices! Let us go forward on this road. May God bless you!"

Let's go to confession- it's a beautiful, refreshing, healing Sacrament that can, and does, change lives!!!


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