These small articles over the past few weeks have dealt with the Sacrament of Penance, and especially with its important “theological” parts. These are sorrow for sin (contrition), telling one=s sins to the priest (confession), making up for sin (satisfaction, also known as making amends), and the priest=s absolution.
But many people aren’t thinking “theology” when they make use of this sacrament. Fair enough, since most people aren’t theologians. You might think that instead they’re mostly concerned with facing up to their own wrongdoing, trying to realize just how evil sin is and deal with it properly. I wish!
One of my “pet peeves” about confession is how people waste the opportunity to encounter God’s mercy in it. They could make good confessions, but don’t. Too many penitents simply recite a “laundry list” memorized long ago. (Hint: if you=re over 21 and still confessing “disobeying mom and dad” and “saying bad words” as the worst things you do, this is a dead giveaway!) Other people only confess very vague and general sins, such as “impatience with family” and “bad thoughts.” That’s less embarrassing, I suppose, than naming the particular kinds of self-centeredness that cause such things, but hardly a good way to improve matters. It’s also sad when a penitent will confess sins but quickly assign “blame” to other people or situations, as if to excuse them. Since you’ve got free will, no one can “make you” sin – not the devil or your mother-in-law, even if it seems they’re one and the same person sometimes!
What’s my point? Since it’s safe, why not make up your mind really to confront sin and weakness the next time you go to confession? No excuses, no soft-peddling, no trying to seem better than you are. What you get when you’re finally honest is worth it: the overwhelming realization that God loves you personally and completely nonetheless! And with that love He forgives you.