Saturday, January 19, 2013

On my way to Confession ...

... and I have been thinking about its healing properties.  Earlier this morning I read a powerful quotations from Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation on Reconciliation and Penance:
“But as it reflects on the function of this sacrament, the church’s consciousness discerns in it, over and above the character of judgment in the sense just mentioned, a healing of a medicinal character. And this is linked to the fact that the Gospel frequently presents Christ as healer, while his redemptive work is often called, from Christian antiquity, medicina salutis“I wish to heal, not accuse,” St. Augustine said, referring to the exercise of the pastoral activity regarding penance”
It brought a few analogies to mind regarding the discomfort I feel before confessing my sins before one of Jesus' priests and the incomparable benefits it brings to my soul:
  • I don't like it when my doctor says, "I'm going to need you to disrobe;" but it's a necessity for the doc to examine and treat some conditions.
  • Sometimes we're embarrassed to talk to the doctor about a health problem, but until we are able to acknowledge it, the doctor cannot prescribe the cure.
  • After we've received treatment, to prevent the problem from returning, we may need to change certain behaviors - less foods high in fat, less caffeine, more exercise, more fibre in our diet, etc. (That's penance - repair the damage we have done to ourselves and Christ's Body and move forward in such a way that we do not fall into that sin again.)
Confession isn't easy; but nothing about Redemption is.  Whenever I read the Bible I am forced to acknowledge that God the Father is not in the business of raising wimps.  We all recognize that He never gives up on us, never abandons us, no matter how many times we fail; but we often fail to acknowledge that there is a second manner in which He never gives up on us - He never stops challenging us.  

The Father never says, "Oh, Shane is never going to look like Jesus.  I'm going to stop challenging Him to and just let him stay the way he is for eternity."  No, God loves us right now, just as we are; but He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are!  He wants children who have grown strong under His loving discipline, grown strong by repeatedly opening themselves to His grace.  As Paul wrote, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Phil.2:12-13).  We might well experience "fear and trembling" before making our Confession, but oh how it allows God to work in us!

And you and I know - Jesus would not have established the Sacrament if it was necessary for us.  He knew what He was doing when He appeared to the Apostles on that first Easter, and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).  And, through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles knew what they were doing when they ordained presbyters (the technical term for those we commonly refer to as priests) to share in their ministry of forgiving or retaining sins.  Note how it is was simply mentioned in passing in connection with the Anointing of the Sick:

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:14-16).
Confession.  Has it been awhile since you've seen the doctor?  I want to be healthy; I'm on my way.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Hope to see you there!

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