Monday, June 24, 2002

Reconciliation, Sacrament of, some stray thoughts

I want to talk about a fact of life: I sin. I do dumb things I know I shouldn't do. I avoid doing smart stuff that I know I ought to do. And I am not alone in this. And I need help (we need help).

Gloriously and graciously, the Lord has given us help in the great sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are assured of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and we receive the grace to keep from sinning and to live the life we are called to.

There are five things we have to have or do in order to make a decent confession, which are (1) a searching and honest examination of conscience, (2) complete acknowledgement of our sins without excuses, (3) contrition, which is the fancy theology word for being sorrowful about our sins, (4) firm purpose of amendment, a determination not to sin again, and (5) restitution, when possible, and penance. In return for our decent confession, we are absolved, assured by the Lord's priest that our sins are truly forgiven, according to the promise of Christ.

For me, the greatest gift and secret of this sacrament is that it makes me be totally honest about myself. Dishonesty and deception does no good. God already knows it all in any case. Since the cost of becoming at one with God is being honest about my dumbest sinning, then let me be embarrassed. Embarrassment, even the public kind, does not kill; in fact it liberates in the long term. But secrets will bind and kill the spirit, and sometimes even the body.

As usual, it seems, those humble, battered, but wise 12-steppers have found that same gift and secret in the school of hard knocks. The fourth through tenth of their infamous steps are awfully (and awe-filled-ly) familiar.
(4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
(5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
(6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
(7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
(8) Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
(9) Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
(10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

The 12-steppers have drawn a map even those of us who have somehow avoided the addictions can follow. For, you see, I know I am firmly addicted to sinning, as firmly as any addict. To stay free, I need all the help I can get.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and my sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in the deeds that I have done
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask the blessed Mary, ever-virgin,
all the angels and the saints,
and you, my brothers and my sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

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