09 Sep Getting Freed From Lies
by Fr. David May
Where there’s life, there’s movement of some kind. Where there is a spiritual reality on this earth, there is a work of great grace from God. And where there is a true spiritual life, there is a frequent need for the sacrament of confession.
Yes, confession is not only for the sinner converting for the first time to God’s ways. It is not only for the prodigal son come to his senses at last. It is also for those who have sought to follow the Lord for a long time.
It is for the elder brother striving to persevere in his father’s service without becoming bitter or jaded. It is for the worker who has labored since the first hour in the heat of the day, as well as for the one who did not begin until the 11th hour.
Mercy welcomes our entry into the spiritual life, and mercy guides our journey to the end, making the impossible possible.
Confession is the chosen vessel the Lord uses to pour out the oil of forgiveness and divine compassion upon our hearts.
What does the “devoted” disciple need to be aware of that frequent confession greatly assists in keeping in check? Four struggles immediately come to mind:
First, sins against faith. How easy it is, humanly speaking, to be daunted by the next thing the Lord asks of us! For he is always saying to us, one way or another, “Friend, come up higher in the gift of yourself to your brothers and sisters, and thus to Me.”
Faith tells me that with God the impossible becomes possible yet again. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. Yet how easy it is not to accept this, to calculate according to the logic of human prudence: “This is too much. I just don’t have it in me to do this or suffer that. Sorry, Lord, this one is beyond me.”
Confession cuts through this rejection of faith in God’s powerful grace sustaining us in all things. It restores to the penitent the conviction that with the Lord all things are indeed possible, based on the utterly “impossible” likelihood of mercy offered to this unbeliever yet again.
This sacrament also helps us to identify in the “irrefutable logic” of a certain way of thinking, the voice of the Master Logician, Satan.
He attempts to dishearten us with a false kind of reasoning closed to the intervention of the Transcendent in human affairs. The simple presence of divine grace itself is all that is needed to refute such “arguments.”
Second, sins against hope. These go something like this: “All these years of following the Lord, and I am as bad off as ever. I confess the same sins over and over again, but to what effect? There is in me something opposed to God that just won’t change or can’t change, no matter what I do.”
Or like this: “After all my years of trying to make things better in this world for the sake of the Gospel, what do I find? It’s mostly for naught. In fact, things seem to be getting worse. The world is no closer to [fill in the blank] than it was when I gave myself to the Lord’s service as a youth.”
Or even this: “I’m doomed to eternal condemnation because I am hateful myself with no hope of ever changing. My life as a Christian is a complete sham.”
A sincere confession can cut these arguments off at the roots, or at least silence them for a time. It restores the joy that comes from hope, which doesn’t need to “see results” to have confidence that God is at work through every effort which his grace inspires and sustains—whatever the visible results.
Again, the grace of the sacrament enables one to see that it is Satan who adds “weight” to the burdens of human weakness, till the last spark of hope is virtually extinguished. At least that is his intention, unless foiled again by the humility that leads one to confess one’s sins.
Third, sins against love. In community and in family life these can take many forms, such as: “I simply cannot forgive him or her another time. This last infraction was it. Now it’s game over, time for revenge, my turn to have some fun.”
Or this: “I’ve poured myself out for so-and-so for endless years. Is it appreciated in the slightest? Am I not taken advantage of, taken for granted, and taken for a ride to nowhere with so-and-so? No more!”
Or this: “I’m tired and sick of being kind and courteous to that surly, insulting ingrate. Now I’m going to give him/her a piece of my mind.”
Here is where the grace of confession really shines. Confessing one’s anger, frustration, desire for or act of revenge, judgmental thoughts, violence restores to the heart the reality and the memory of who a Christian is meant to be in this world: an icon of Christ.
There is a desire again to love as the Lord would love in my life’s situation. And if a hard truth needs to be spoken, it can be done without rancor or condemnation, but with genuine compassion for the one who has given offense.
Again there is a grace also to recognize the lies of Satan about our neighbor. These usually take the form of demonizing him or her, thus exaggerating the offense and giving assurance that said “devil” will never change or have a conversion, and will never want to. About the devil himself, truer words have never been spoken!
Fourth, sins against worship. When we are thus battered as described above by the various struggles, very often our worship of God diminishes. We find we are too busy, too tired, too sick, too this, or too that!
Blinded somewhat by our other sins, and “under the gun” from the Tempter, our love for God can cool, our faith in God takes a hit, our hope can diminish. And at the heart of it all there is a suspicion that God really doesn’t come through for us after all.
Gradually, he seems further and further away. Less real. Less tangible. Less relevant. God becomes small in our lives, to the point of disappearance.
But confession cuts through this tangle, restoring intimacy and peace with God. There is an inflow of joy, and the desire is rekindled to worship the Lord in gratitude and awe.
Now one sees that the Tempter was seeking himself to be worshipped by having adoration of the Lord give way to adulation of the flesh and of what satisfactions the Liar promises through its exaltation.
Might as well get used to it: confession is the vessel of choice the Lord uses to redirect our lives back to himself, each time a bit more secure in the adoration in spirit and in truth that bears fruit in faith, hope and love.