Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

12 March 2011

"Confessiooooon! Confession! Confession!"

I recognize that it would make more sense if the title of this entry were sung.  (Think the trisyllabic title of the tune from "Fiddler On The Roof.")

'Tis the season for repentance (fa la la la la...oh, forget it)!  The liturgical season of Lent is now upon us, with its summons to take spiritual/moral inventory and to give it away in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Fr. John Dietzen, a columnist for the Catholic News Service, fittingly compares this divine and human act to the fourth and fifth step of 12-step programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) which call for their adherents to "take a searching and fearless moral inventory" and to "admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."  He notes in his latest column (published in the most recent Catholic Standard and Times) that Catholics in these programs often "give away" fifth-steps to a priest in the sacramental forum.  While the addict or co-addict often needs to "hit bottom" in order to do these things, all Catholics would profit from the unsparing self-examination and self-disclosure of Confession. 

So why wait for an experience of personal tragedy to do it?  The truth is, many people do just that because their fears prevent them from doing such things until they're ready--that is, until the pain is so great that they'll go to any length to stop it.  Admission of their powerlessness over alcohol, gambling, lust, etc., or admission of their powerlessness over a loved one who is enmeshed in these things; recognition of the unmanageability of their lives; the gradual or sudden arrival at belief in a Higher Power who can return them to right thinking and living (" sanity"); and total surrender to that Power: these actions suffice for 12-steppers to commence that painful yet liberating, momentous yet lifelong process.  It is a relief to know that such depths aren't necessary for everyone.

The founders of AA were on to something that even they would admit was nothing new.  They and millions in their company have mined a gem worthy of G. K. Chesterton's insight that Christianity "is not something that has been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."
God knows it ain't easy, but a good Confession is worth rigorous effort.  It saves lives.

By way of an Ecclesial Service Announcement (ESA), I note that Holy Guardian Angels Parish is offering two extra hours of Confession from 4 to 5pm and 7 to 8pm on the Thursdays of Lent (excluding Holy Thursday).  All parishes in the five-county Diocese of Allentown are doing likewise at various times, thanks to Bishop Barres' call for a more lavish provision of Reconciliation during the Lenten season.  HGA is blessed to have more than one priest, which has made it easier for us to be available for Confessions before each Lord's Day Mass.  This has been in force for many years, to great effect. 

Big fish, guppies--we catch 'em all...or at least we cast the divine dragnet.  And thank God, for sinners like you and me need an invitation sometimes.  When sin's discomfort weighs us down, we eagerly yet silently yearn to be caught by the One who, once lifted up from the earth, vowed to "draw everyone to myself" (John 12:32).  So consider this to be the offer you can refuse, but only to your undoing.  And not just yours, for in some fashion the whole Church is diminished--earthly speaking, at least--by a sinner's refusal to repent. 

It is God's to judge what constitutes an outright refusal, of course, but while we have the faculties of mind and will, we also have the quality of passivity, which is, on one hand, the ability to remain inert, and on the other, the ability to yield to a superior force--a Higher Power, whose power over us is both harsh and gentle, dreadful and delightful.  Paradox of paradoxes, this latter passivity is the apex of action.

So act now!  And if you confess within the next forty days, you will receive--absolutely free--the same thing you'd receive any other time of the year: "grace and mercy for timely help" (Heb 4:16).

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