Confused about Confession

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 The Problem 

    This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my family concerning sin. They asked me “If someone went to confession and immediately died, would they go straight to heaven?” I told them no, you would still have to go to purgatory. They didn’t like that answer and followed up with “but doesn’t confession and baptism take away all sin?” Yes, I answered, but then I was stumped. As often happens when I’m questioned about my faith, I know WHAT I believe, but I sometimes forget WHY. Or at least I forget how to eloquently state why. So hence this post.

Sin   

 I think the problem with understanding that question is rooted in the consequences of sin. Many people see life as a monopoly game, and if you go to confession you pull the ‘Go directly to Heaven. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200’ card. All the stops are pulled out for you and you skip purgatory do not collect the purification there and dance right through the golden gates. Unfortunately sin is a little more serious than monopoly.

    If we take a few steps back, past the Reading Railroad and even Mediterranean Avenue and we start at the first roll of the game, we might be able to understand more clearly the consequence of sin and the effects of confession. Adam and Eve go first and they royally mess up the game.  “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness” (CCC 397).

  Before this Adam and Eve were full of original holiness, however now they have lost that grace. Along with them the whole human race has been marked by this first sin. The Human soul “is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence” (CCC 405).

The Sacraments 

     That is why human beings need the Sacrament of Baptism for salvation. “Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God.” This concept is also difficult to comprehend. If Baptism erases original sin, why do we need confession? Even though original sin is erased, “the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle” (CCC 405). Have you sinned after your baptism? Then you know why you must continue to go to confession.

  Sin has three effects on the human soul: guilt, stain, and punishment. All of these are washed away through Baptism and each time you go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God, in all his mercy forgives you for any sin you may commit. No sin is bigger than the love of God. However, through the Sacrament of Confession only the eternal punishment is taken away, not the temporal punishment.

 The Breakdown

  Think of it this way, a boy is playing baseball and hits the ball into the neighbor’s window and shatters the glass.  The boy goes to apologize to the neighbor who forgives him for breaking the window (eternal punishment). Hopefully, if the neighbor is Christ like, she will forgive the boy and not hold it against him for the rest of his life. Just as when we sin and go to confession, God forgives our sins and does not hold it against us. However, the boy still has to deal with the temporal punishment of his mistake. Even though the neighbor forgives him, the boy still must pay for the broken window. We too must pay for our sins through temporal punishment and if we do not do so in this life time, we finish the purification process in purgatory.

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The Mass: Part 1; Lord Have Mercy

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I decided my first big project for this blog would be to walk step by step through the Mass. The Mass is full of mind-blowing realities, unfortunately many people view Mass as another obligation they must fulfill to ‘be a good catholic.’ Often when people think of Mass “boring, long, and not pertinent to my life”  immediately comes to mind. Hopefully by revealing some awesome hidden secrets of the Mass, it will open your eyes to how magnificent celebrating the Mass is.

So one of my favorite parts of the Mass is the Kyrie eleison invocations. This is the part of the Mass where we say “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” When we hear this in Mass, it is very easy to repeat back the lines we have all memorized with no feeling or thought. However, I invite you to really think about what it means to ask Christ for mercy. This brings to mind the story of Jesus healing the blind man in Mark 10:46-52.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

We must ask God for mercy in the same desperation and with the same faith as this blind beggar. We are blind in faith and we do not truly see how blessed we are. In our culture there is a dangerous mindset to believe we are entitled to everything. However, before God we do not deserve anything Therefore when Mass opens and you are bored already, ask the all-forgiving God to grant you mercy.

We expect our experiences to make us feel good, and when they don’t we don’t want to participate in them.  Unfortunately if we have this approach to our sacramental life we will be sorely disappointed. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth” (CC153). To fully participate with faith in the Mass we must first ask for God to help us. “We must beg the Lord to increase our faith” and believe that he will give us the consolation we need (CCC166).

We have to make a step toward God and ask for his mercy, we must be conscious of our unworthiness, ready for his healing power, and completely full of faith that he can and will move us if we ask him to. When we begin Mass and say “Christ, have Mercy” become the blind beggar and ask God to open your own eyes to the mysteries he wants to reveal to you.