The Joy of Confession

Confession is a joyous occasion, not one of fear and anxiety. How did Jesus describe confession? First, let me say what confession is. It is when a person realizes he has sinned against God and that his sin has separated him from God. With genuine sorrow for having offended his heavenly Father, the only One who loves him perfectly and infinitely, he desires to be reconciled with Him, and so he humbly approaches God seeking forgiveness.

Jesus describes this as a joyous occasion. In Luke 10:7 & 10, He says this:
7 “I tell you…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

10 “I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

And we can’t forget the parable of the prodigal son. (Or should it be called the parable of the merciful father? Oh, wait. Spoilers.) This is where Jesus describes our heavenly Father’s reaction to our repentance.

If you recall, the younger son of two asks his father for his share of the inheritance, which in that time and culture is tantamount to saying “I wish you were dead,” not to mention that the inheritance normally goes to the oldest son, not to any younger ones, which means he really has no right to anything. However, his father loves him and gives him a share, and the son goes off and squanders it all away living it up. Then hard times arise, the son has nothing left, and he ends up hiring himself out to slop pigs. Another cultural note:  to Jews, pigs are unclean animals. He’s defiled himself by taking this job. He has little to eat and sees that the pigs have it better than he does. So he decides he will go home, tell his father he’s sinned against him and God, and ask to be hired as a servant.

Well, what happens? When the son approaches home, his father sees him in the distance, and runs out to greet him. His father is overjoyed! His son has come home! The son starts to say what he has rehearsed: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21) That’s all he had a chance to say. He admitted his sin, and BAM! all was instantly forgiven. In fact, his father had really forgiven him beforehand, he simply waited for his son to return. (This is repentance: turning away from sin and to God.)

Then we read the father’s instructions to his servants: “‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.”

So let’s boil it down: the son goes off and leads a sinful lifestyle. He regrets his sins. He goes home. Father is waiting for him and joyously welcomes him home, nary a word is said about what the son did; he is forgiven, and all is forgotten! Then they celebrated!

This is confession. Person sins. Person is genuinely sorry (a penitent). Person goes and confesses sins. BAM! He is forgiven. Heaven celebrates! This is why confession is a joyful occasion. Sure…we hardly like to admit to ourselves that what we’ve done is wrong much less go and actually tell someone else. But that is how we are reconciled to our heavenly Father who, as represented by the father in the parable, is keenly awaiting our return. You’re already forgiven. If you just come and seek the mercy of God, you will get it in abundance!

You might ask, why do I need to confess to a priest? Well, when Jesus built His Church on Peter and the apostles, that’s how he set it up. In John 20:21-23, Jesus tells His apostles He is sending them as the Father had sent Him. He breathes on them, telling them, “receive the Holy Spirit.” And then Jesus shares with these men whom He has ordained the power to forgive sins on God’s behalf, saying: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Well, how can the apostles forgive sins unless they know what they are? Unless they see the person is actually repentant? Simple. They hear the person confess his sins. But it’s not only the apostles that can forgive sins. That would mean Jesus’ Church is very limited, to only 12 men who died off in the first century. No, when the apostles traveled and set up local churches, they ordained bishops and priests. Jesus had empowered the apostles, and, by the laying on of hands, the apostles empowered (ordained) certain men with the same abilities, e.g. the power to forgive sins on God’s behalf. In this way, Jesus’ Church (with its mission of teaching, baptizing, mercy, and forgiveness) will continue until Jesus returns.

So, if you haven’t been to confession (a.k.a. the sacrament of reconciliation) in a long time, get the celebration in heaven started! Reflect. Find an “examination of conscience” online to help you. In all humility, realizing you’ve offended the One who created you and loves you and wants you to come home, go to your local parish, and confess. Don’t know where to go? Check MassTimes.org or your telephone book for Catholic parishes in or near your address or town.

God gave His Church the mission to reconcile sinners to Him. Make Jesus happy. Seek His unending mercy. There is no sin you’ve committed greater than the mercy of God. Never think that. God is greater than you are. He’s waiting for you. Go find one of His priests and get reconciled to Him.

An excerpt from Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians 5:17-20
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:  the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

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Hell Is For Real

Nobody wants to talk about hell because it’s a scary subject—eternal punishment!

Some people don’t believe hell exists. It most definitely does. Just ask Satan.

Some people don’t believe hell is eternal. It most definitely is. Just ask Satan.

Better yet, don’t contact Satan. Let’s see what our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ, had to say:

Matthew 25:41 – Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:46 – And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

There it is—eternal punishment.  You see, hell isn’t like a prison sentence where you would serve some number of years and then get out.  There is no time in hell or in heaven to serve.  Time is part of creation.  Once we enter into eternity, we just are.  No time passes because it doesn’t exist in eternity. It’s a difficult concept, because we are part of creation.  In any case, once you are in hell—to borrow a lyric from The Eagles—you can check out any “time” you like but you can never leave. Eek!

Hell is something you need to consider seriously. One day you will die, and you don’t know when that day will come. We all would like to think we’re going to heaven, but, whether or not you would like to believe it, most people won’t.

Matthew 7:13-14 – Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it are few.

Do your best to make sure you are one of the few.

Now, you can’t blame God if you go to hell.  He created us to spend eternity united with Him in heaven.  He loves us beyond all understanding.

1 Timothy 2:4 – [God our savior] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

1 John 4:8b – God is love.

Our problem is that we don’t love God back as He desires. How can I say that? Well, we sin. It’s that simple. What can we do?  Repent. We hear that word, but what does it mean? Simply this:  turn away from sin and turn to God.  In other words—stop sinning!  Do you remember the story of the adulteress? You can find it in the gospel according to John 8:3-11.  A woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, and the people who brought her said she should be stoned to death according to the law, and they were preparing to do just that.  Then Jesus said:

“Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.”

Everybody realized they had all sinned, so they dropped their stones and left.  Jesus then told the adulteress:

“Go and sin no more.”

That’s what repent means.  Go and sin no more.

I said earlier that we don’t love God back as he desires.  The easiest way to start loving God better is to obey His commandments.

John 14:15 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 15:24a – Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

Obedience = love.  Disobedience ≠ love.

See Exodus 20:1-17 for the Ten Commandments.

Jesus’ two great commandments were to love God and love your neighbor.

Matthew 22:37 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.

To love God, love Him with all that you are.  Give yourself completely to Him.  Hold nothing back.  As you would give yourself completely to your spouse, give even more so to God.  To love your neighbor, treat Him as Jesus would.  A good example of what to do can be found in the Judgment of Nations narrative:

Matthew 25:34-36 – Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

It makes sense.  If you love God, you won’t sin against God.  If you love your neighbor, you won’t sin against your neighbor.  Ah, if only it were so easy.  Unfortunately, because of the sin of Adam, we have what is called concupiscence, which is the tendency to sin.  You will sin.  I will sin.  We all sin.  But Jesus knew that although He would die for our sins, and by His resurrection bring us to new life, we would still sin.  For our part, we must actually make a firm amendment of our lives not to sin again.  That’s part of loving God.  You don’t want to offend the ones you love, most especially God.  For most of us, we will continue to commit grave sin from time to time.  But Jesus, because of His great love for us, gave us the sacrament of confession (a.k.a. penance or reconciliation).

John 20:22-23 – And when [Jesus] had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Forgiving sins is one of the powers of God.

Luke 5:21 – Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

But when Jesus created His Church, He shared this power with His disciples.  This ability to forgive did not die with the last apostle.  The disciples handed on this power to forgive sins on behalf of God to the men that they ordained, and all those ordained to serve Jesus—the priests and bishops—share the power to forgive and will until the end of time.  Remember, they can’t forgive or retain your sins unless they know what they are.  That’s why you need to confess to a priest or bishop.  Once you have been absolved of your sins, your soul is healed, no longer cut off from God, and you are as spiritually pure as a newly baptized babe.  You receive sanctifying grace when you go to confession.  That’s grace that makes you holy.  Of course, for your confession to be valid, you must sincerely regret your sins, be firmly resolved not to sin again, and confess every grave sin you are aware of.  If you’re not really sorry, if you have no plans to stop sinning, or if you hold back and don’t confess all your sins, you’re wasting your time and the priest’s time.  Out of love, Jesus gave you this lifeline. Use it!

So what are some grave sins? Saint Paul tells us some:  fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery, sexual acts between people of the same sex, covetousness (inordinate desire for something that belongs to another), idolatry, slander, drunkenness, extortion (theft).  See the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 5:11 and 6:9-10.

One thing that many Catholics don’t think is breaking a commandment is skipping mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation.  The commandment to keep the Lord’s day holy means go to mass.  That’s how we keep it holy, and to skip mass is a mortal sin, which must be confessed.  Some people scoff and think I skip mass once, and I’m going to hell?  Well, if you knew it was a grave sin and you willfully did it anyway, then yes.  You will have willfully disobeyed one of God’s commandments.  That cuts you off from the life of God. That’s why mortal sins are called mortal—they are deadly sins.  If you do not repent and confess, you will not have life in heaven.  Those who resist this truth as well as other truths want things their way, not God’s way.  They put themselves above God.

Isaiah 55:6-9 – Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. >>>For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.<<<

Additionally, don’t think that if you do all kinds of wonderful things like feeding the poor and your only sin is that you’re shacking up with someone, for example, that God will tell you, “oh, alright.  Come on in.  You’re doing good things.”  It doesn’t work like that.  God doesn’t use a balancing scale, more good than bad and you can enter heaven.  Good works won’t get you past the pearly gates.  It’s about love, which means obedience.  If He says don’t do something, you don’t do it.  If He says do something, you do it. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit.  They disobeyed.  They couldn’t say, “but it was just one bite!”  Satan and the demons were once angels in heaven.  They chose not to obey.  Hell was then created for them, and humans who will not obey will share the same fate.

Matthew 25:41 – Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

1 Corinthians 6:9a – Do you not know the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Revelation 21:27 – Nothing unclean will enter heaven, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies.

You need to know that God is being very patient with you, but you don’t know when your time will be up, so stop sinning and start loving God now.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Think of this:  Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer:  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….  Now, do you think the will of God is for you to sin?  No.  Repent, yes, but sin, no.

Most people don’t think about this, but God doesn’t condemn a person to hell.  That person, by his own free will, condemns himself.  If a person does not repent or convert or if he willfully rejects God altogether, God is not going to force that person into heaven against his will.  If an unrepentant sinner were brought into heaven, he would suffer more greatly than if he had gone to hell, because he would know what his life had been like, his sins would be known to him, and he would find it absolutely intolerable to stand in the presence of the glory of God.  Hell is merciful.

So it comes down to this:  don’t sin.  Love God first first by obeying Him.  People hate the word obey these days, but just as parents lay down rules for their children for their good, so God lays down rules for us for our infinite and eternal good.  Take time to learn the Catholic faith well.  The more you do, the more you will love.  The more you love, the less desire you will have to offend your heavenly Father (i.e. to sin).

Get on that narrow path and stick with it.  Eternity basking in the infinite love of God is worth it.  Eternity with an absolute lack of love, an everlasting hatred of self, of God, and of everything else (there is no love in hell) is not worth any sin.

Know the Shepherd

This is the March 30, 2014 Reflection from Give Us This Day, Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic:

There’s a true story I love about a house party in one of the big English country houses.  Often after dinner at these parties, people give recitations, sing, and use whatever talent they have to entertain the company.  One year a famous actor was among the guests.  I’ve been told he might have been Charles Laughton.  When it came his turn to perform, he recited the Twenty-third Psalm, perhaps the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  His rendition was magnificent, and there was much applause.  At the end of the evening someone noticed a little old great aunt dozing in the corner.  She was deaf as a post and had missed most of what was going on, but she was urged to get up and recite something.  In those days, people used to memorize a lot of poetry!  So she stood up, and in her quavery old voice she started, The Lord is my shepherd, and went on to the end of the psalm.  When she had finished there were tears in many eyes.  Later one of the guests approached the famous actor.  “You recited that psalm absolutely superbly.  It was incomparable.  So why were we so moved by that funny, little old lady?”

He replied, “I know the psalm.  She knows the shepherd.”

–Madeleine L’Engle, Glimpses of Grace:  Daily Thoughts and Reflections

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 10:05  Leave a Comment  
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Ask Jesus to Teach You to Be a Disciple.

To seek mercy, we must first be humble.  We must feel regret for offending God, who loves us beyond measure.  Humility and remorse on our part come before mercy on God’s part.  That is not to say God’s mercy is not always there.  And we surely can’t earn it like a merit badge!  What we have to do is cooperate with God and His will in all humility.  We have to die to self and allow God to act through us.  This means checking our pride and arrogance.  Never forget, though–we can do nothing on our own, only with Jesus (cf John 15:5).  Pray.  Ask Jesus to teach you to be a disciple.  Pray for humility.  Pray for mercy.  What more can we do before our judge but ask for mercy?  But how can we honestly do that if we are unable to lie prostrate before God full of humility?

Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 22:13  Comments (1)  
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Freedom or Moral Anarchy? Heaven or Hell?

Donald Demarco quotes Abraham Lincoln in the OSV Newsweekly:  “For Lincoln, the question of slavery ‘must be settled on some philosophical basis.  No policy that does not rest on some philosophical public opinion can be permanently maintained.'”

I agree.  The philosophy that holds that killing a baby in the womb is immoral must be learned and agreed by all.  In what other case do we ever accept the killing of innocents?  Never!  Animals have better protection laws than than children in the womb and pregnant mothers.  Laws regarding pregnant mothers and their children are written not to protect them, but to protect abortionists.

Informed consent so the mother knows fully what she will be doing as well as the risks and mental and physical consequences if she obtains an abortion; parental consent so the parents of a minor can consent or not to their daughter having an abortion; parental notification so the parents can simply know that their daughter is about to undergo a medical procedure without their consent; laws to notify authorities about an underage girl raped by an adult; and other such laws are written to protect the mother & child in some way, and all are all fought tooth and nail by the abortion industry and/or abortion supporters, and in too many cases, these laws are struck down.  Protect the abortionists, not the mothers & children.  That is where the interest lies.  And, unbelievably, the current occupant of the White House didn’t even support a law to prevent babies who survived an attempted abortion to be given medical care.  Let ’em die!  It is all about the industry, and the industry is completely and utterly immoral.

The philosophy of “freedom” needs to be overhauled, too.  It must once more be understood not only as non-oppression by government but also the freedom to do what is right, because “freedom” has turned into moral anarchy:  “I can do whatever I want.  I’m free.”  This insanity has brought us the notion of same sex marriage, because as soon as someone is labeled “discriminatory,” “bigoted,” or “unfair,” people jump because Americans don’t want to be any of those things.  However, retaining the idea that a marriage is reserved for a man-woman union (as it has been since the dawn of time!) is not discriminatory or bigoted or unfair.  It is as natural as can be.  You can change civil law.  You can’t change natural law.  You can behave as you please.  You can’t change what is right and true.  You can also send yourself to hell by giving God the finger when He has made clear that “From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife.  And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (See Mark 10:6-9).  “From the beginning” means that was God’s plan for His creation (us) when He created us.  Remember, you’re a creature; God is the Creator.  We were purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross.  Not only did He create us, He also purchased us (ransomed us from the slavery of sin).  We belong to God.  We need to do what He wants.  (And He only wants good for us, so there’s no reason to be afraid.)  That’s called obedience.  Obey!  That big, bad four letter word of our time.

Now, you can take the words of God and chuck ’em out the door.  You can laugh at Church teaching, mock it, and call it out-dated.  But keep in mind that hell does, indeed, exist.  Live by your philosophy now and suffer the consequences later.  Or live by God’s philosophy (which truly is freedom) and enjoy union with Him who is unimaginable love for eternity.

It’s your choice.  I choose God, because if I have to pick between feeble, very temporary pleasure on earth and infinite love that we can’t get here on earth and have it for all eternity, I’ll choose Love.

Published in: on February 20, 2013 at 17:41  Leave a Comment  
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Catholics Attacking Catholics

Catholic? Aggression

Of late, I have seen attacks against Catholics by other Catholics.  Why are we “attacking” each other, especially for such petty reasons?  Aren’t we being attacked enough by those of this world, whether by those in the government who are trying to restrict religious liberty or by militant atheists who are trying to eliminate public signs of religion?

One recent instance that comes to mind are the comments against Catholic blogger Lisa Graas because of her blog post about why Rick Santorum, a Catholic, should not help raise funds for the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army, by the way, is not a charity.  It is a protestant ecclesial community that, like many other religious (including Catholic) organizations, does corporal works of mercy.  A surprising number of people chastised her for her position on a prominent Catholic raising funds for a protestant “church.”  I couldn’t help but wonder why her perspective on the subject was so controversial.

The second instance of an attack that comes to mind–and far worse in my view–is by Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher and her co-blogger called “The Jerk.”  They malign fellow Catholic Michael Voris of Saint Michael’s Media and ChurchMilitant.TV.  Not liking Voris’ style is one thing, calumny is another.  Fisher is a prominent blogger whose writings appear in numerous outlets, so her writings, including this verbal aggression, are read by many, and if her readers are unfamiliar with Michael Voris, they will automatically have a negative view about him.  The blog post harms his reputation.

There are numerous places to learn that we should not attack each other.  Let’s start with “Love one another as I have loved you.”  That, from the mouth of the Son of the Living God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We can learn from the handbook for the Catholic faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).  If you ever have a question about the faith, look there.  I highly recommend owning a copy.

According to paragraph 2477 of the CCC:  “Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty…of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.”  Personally, I believe one harms one’s own reputation by insulting another person so publicly.

As Catholics, we are supposed to be one body (the body of Christ), CCC 791:  “The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: ‘From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.’  Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions:  ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.'”  So to insult or attack another member of the body of Christ is to insult or attack all members, including yourself.

Let’s look at what the Apostles said.

Saint Paul, where he tells us what “love is…” in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, says this:  “[Love] is not rude.”  I must say that Simcha Fisher and The Jerk were especially rude.  They were even rude to people who tried to defend Voris, even to someone who tried to admonish politely and quoted the CCC paragraphs I mentioned above.  (Thanks for those.)  As a Catholic who is taking the time to learn more and more about the faith, and in doing so learning to love my neighbor better, I don’t understand this behavior by this well-known Catholic blogger, who even contributes to the respected National Catholic Register.

Saint Peter, whom Jesus selected as our first pope, in his first letter, second chapter, tells us to “rid yourselves of all malice…and all slander.”  So if you disagree with someone, do so with charity.  Don’t be mean.  Don’t name call.  Should we not “do to others whatever you would have them do to you”? [Matthew 7:12]  Are we not to “be perfect as [our] Heavenly Father is perfect”? [Matthew 5:48]

Saint Peter reminds us in chapter 2 of his first letter:  “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…'”  If this is true, we should not act like the people of this world, i.e. secular people who are hostile towards Christians.  We are called to be different…better…perfect.  We are “called…out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

In Saint Peter’s second letter, we read this:  “Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.”  One builds on the other, and how does it end?  Love!

It’s all about love.

Look.  If we see a fellow Catholic failing in living the faith, we should admonish–with charity [which means love]–to guide them back onto the righteous path.  If we simply disagree about a point of no consequence, like a Catholic politician who helps to raise funds for a protestant church or the presentation style of a Catholic media personality, discuss calmly, with charity.  We don’t need to “rip” anyone.  We have enough of that from the secular world.

I know I am not a prominent Catholic blogger like Lisa Graas or Simcha Fisher, and I will be able to count on one hand the number of people who read this post, but for those of you who do read this, be good to others.  Remember love.  It is at the core of our faith.

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 23:44  Comments (4)  
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