Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sacrament of Confession

Imagine. You go to a farm or stockyard, buy a lamb or young goat, perhaps you can find a pair of doves and you bring them to the priest and he sets them up on the alter in order to sacrifice your offering to God. Uttering lamentations, he offers this sacrifice with the hope that your sins and those of your family are forgiven by God. You hope that God is pleased with your sacrifice. Yes, hope. You aren't sure. You know you deserve death because it is written in the law. You hope this sacrifice will be accepted in atonement for your sins, but will it be enough?

The sin of Adam placed mankind in a state of spiritual slavery. Yes we sacrificed and repented, atoned for our sins and lived our lives to the best of our ability, yet never able to shed the yoke of sin because nothing man could do could heal the rift between himself and God. Man, in his sinful state could not offer anything to God that had any worth in order reinstate himself in God's graces. I cannot imagine the despair some must have felt in not knowing whether they were forgiven and in God's good graces as they approached their final days on this earth. Left alone, in his fallen state, man was not 'worthy' to dwell in His house. Enter Love.

Love? What else can we call it, when the Creator of heaven and earth decides to place himself a 'little lower than the angels' and become one of us, a human being. This says more about God's love for us than anything He could have said. He deemed us lovable enough to place His own son on the alter in order to save us and glorify Himself. Sin deserved death, a death that would clean the slate so to speak and place man in a state of grace. Christ offered himself in our stead as the sacrifice to break the bonds of sin man placed on himself.

So, if Christ died for us and rose in glory, what happens when man, through weakness, thoughtlessness falls again?? Does God send another Messiah to die for us? No. And that my friends is the beauty of His plan. A plan so full of love, so merciful, that not one of us needs to be a slave to his own sinfulness as was the case before He came to us and redeemed us.

We are called to be reborn. To change our ways through repentance of our sins and sinful lifestyle and live in the manner that Christ showed us. Loving each other and forgiving each other at all times for His glory. And we are reborn, through our baptism. Yet, knowing man's weakness and penchant for sinfulness while striving to live a Christian life, He gave us a gift that would forever change our lives, if we accept it.

The Sacrament of Confession(Reconciliation) is a gift that speaks volumes of God's love for us. Through this gift we have been given a chance to seek His forgiveness and to be reassured that, indeed, we have been forgiven. Does that mean we can continue our sinfulness unabated and without repentance, and confess our sins thereafter only to sin again knowing we will be forgiven? Only a fool would think that. Why would we want to confess our sins only to willfully want to continue to sin? What's the point? That makes no sense. A true repentant, a Christian, knowing his weakness and failings, approaches this Sacrament with full repentance, admission of guilt and with the promise, that to the best of his ability and with God's grace, to avoid sin and occasions of sin. That person is forgiven. Coming to confession with the desire to sin again is ludicrous. There is NO confession in this case, or forgiveness for that matter.

So, what does God require of us? A true repentance. An honest and true desire to reform our lives with the help of His grace. A true admission of our sins with nothing held back, no matter how shameful or humbling this admission may be. Lastly, a true desire to live a holy life modeled after Jesus. I personally do not find this sacrament easy to practice. As a matter of fact I dread the reception of this sacrament, yet, at regular intervals I go to confession. Why? Because I refuse to let my fear of humiliation and shame for my sins keep me from staying in a state of Grace and from God's love, and the feeling of freedom of having my sins forgiven is beyond words.

We are admonished to 'not abide in sin'. Of course. Abiding in sin is living a life in habitual sin with no desire to repent. So does that mean if we fall into sin we are not true Christians? No, not at all. Yes, do 'not abide in sin' but, as we read else where, 'if you do sin' we have recourse to God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. If we believe we no longer commit sin, then we have no idea what sin is or have not examined our consciences thoroughly. Worse, we have fooled ourselves into thinking we no longer need His forgiveness. At this point the soul is in grave danger. When the apostles asked Christ how to pray he gave us what we call the Lord's Prayer. In that prayer not only do we ask for our 'daily bread' but also to forgive US the way we forgive others. Obviously this prayer was given to us to be said daily. That means in some manner, we probably have sinned during our day otherwise we would not have been told to pray for forgiveness daily.

The sacrament of Confession was given to us to be used by those of us wanting to live a holy life. The grace received through this sacrament far out weighs any sin we may have committed. This grace lifts us up. Makes us stronger to avoid temptation and sin. After receiving the sacrament we do not have to 'begin again'. The sin has been totally eradicated and we are now in the same state of grace that we were in before having committed this sin. . So you see, 'all have fallen short' but ALL have been given the gift of forgiveness if we make use of it. No longer slave to sin, no longer 'stuck' and waiting to be saved. We have been redeemed. We have been paid for by His Blood. Now, let us present our 'coupons of redemption' and receive this gift. The Sacrament of Love.

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