Who knew? It seems that my last post has generated some controversy in the Wayward Catholic family. I have to admit I was surprised that any one from my family read it, not that it would have any bearing on what I write. Continue reading “Who Knew”
Back on Ash Wednesday I took the next big step in my journey back to God and to being a better Catholic. The first thing I did was to go to the Ash Wednesday service, something I had not done since I was kid. I had an ulterior motive other than just getting ashes however. I figured I would have a good chance of cornering the priest at the end of Mass.
Here it is the first Sunday of Lent and the Gospel reading was actually the same one I used yesterday about Jesus going into the desert and being tempted by Satan. The first reading of the day is from Genesis and is the story of Eve being tempted in the Garden of Eden. As I read this passage today I learned something new. This is usually the case every time I reread scripture and today was no different. As is often said, each time you read scripture something new is revealed to you.
The other thing I’ve come to realize with scripture is even though it was written over two thousand years ago, it is still relevant today. It relates to our world, maybe even more today then when they were written. Let’s look at Gen 3: 1- 8. This describes how the serpent tempted Eve. He made the forbidden fruit sound so good how could she resist? He convinced her that it would be okay if she ate from the tree, in fact it would make her a better person. It would give her things she didn’t have. The world would be hers. Does any of this sound familiar? Does this sound like the stuff we are bombarded with every day?
We are told how if we use this product, or go to this or that place, our lives will be so much better. Like Eve we will become a better person. But what about what will really make our lives better? What about what we really need to become a better person? Do we ever hear about God? No because every time we try to get the message out we are attacked. We are told there is no place for God in the public square, yet there is plenty of room for Satan and his traps. Satan is allowed to be everywhere with his temptations, but God is regulated to one hour a week stuck inside four walls.
The good news is Lent is a time for renewal It is a time for all of us to spread the word and renew the church. This is the time to get out there and live the Gospel. Lead by example. Live what you learn. Believe what you learn. Remember back in the late 80’s, early 90’s when the AIDS epidemic began? There was one of those public service commercials that went something like “When you date one person you also date the people they dated and the ones they dated and on and on…” The message was that it was an exponential thing. We need to look at spreading the good news in the same way. When we are an example to one person, they will be an example to another and then another. It will grow and grow.
It all starts with each of us who believe. Each of us needs to shut out the noise and listen to what God is telling us. Let him lead us in the right direction. He will teach us what we need to show others the way and how to bring others back to him. In other words, He will help us to renew His church.
Today we celebrate Easter, the day Jesus was raised from the dead in order to free us from our sins. We can look at this like He wiped our slates clean in order for us to start over. How many of us have kept it clean? I would imagine not too many of us.
No matter how hard we try to not sin it is going to happen, we aren’t perfect and God knows it. For those times we do though, we can ask God for forgiveness and we will receive it, wiping the slate clean again. Catholics do this through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or as we old Catholics still call it “Confession”. In my limited knowledge of other christian denomination practices, I believe we are the only one which has such a thing. No, I am not trying to convert anyone to the Catholic faith, of course you are always welcome. I only want to talk about forgiveness and responsibility.
I remember when I started my journey back to the faith and going to confession for the first time after maybe thirty years, I honestly can’t remember the last time I went. I stopped going because I figured God knew what I was doing, He knew when I sinned, and He would forgive me, even if I didn’t ask. As most Catholics my age, we all figured we knew better than the church fathers. “Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!” So why even bother you might ask? After all God DOES know your sins, why should you have to go through a third party? How about because Jesus, and therefore God tells us to.
This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power “glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8; note the plural “men”). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . 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 20:21–23). – Catholic Answers
But there is even a better reason, or maybe two or even three.
One, it feels good to get all these sins off your chest. Now maybe the word “good” isn’t the best to use, the time I went after having not gone wasn’t “good” in the sense of “happy” but it was “good” in the way of cleansing. Did I k now my sins before hand? Absolutely, but it felt good to get them out there.
Second, it does feel good, in the sense of happy, to be forgiven. I guess some can still argue you don’t need to tell a priest your sins to be forgiven, you can just ask him for forgiveness. But as a Catholic I truly believe that Jesus passed down the power to forgive sins to his apostles and when Catholic priests are ordained, this power is passed down to them. And how can he know your sins if you don’t confess them?
Third, and what to me is the best reason, when you confess your sins to the priest, you are taking responsibility for them. Here is an article from Patheos which talks about what is meant by Jesus taking away our sins. The author talks about how we are quick to blame others for our sins, so we can feel good about ourselves. In today’s world so many of us fail to take responsibility for our actions. Everything is someone elses fault, why we even blame some things on God. It is time we realize this isn’t true, it isn’t always someone elses fault, we have free will and more control than we think. But blaming someone else is the easy way out.
Confession forces us to truly examine our consciences and take responsibility for the sins that are truly our fault. Of course you need to believe in God, believe in Jesus taking away our sins and I suppose, most importantly, knowing God is the ultimate moral authority.
I will leave you today with the Lord’s Prayer”
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.