PARADOXICAL

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 

Sin and the sacrament of confession


(Detailed 09082007 retreat notes from Fr. P.'s lectures. The thoughts transcribed here are the retreat master's, not mine, unless otherwise indicated. -R.)

The sacrament of confession or reconciliation or penance is a most misunderstood sacrament. And it is the most difficult and tiresome for any priest.

There are so many misconceptions about this sacrament. As a priest, I've been stumped by the sight of so many people going to Mass yet very few going to confession. It turns out, people don't appreciate or understand the beauty of the sacrament.

The words "penance," "contrition," "confession," "absolution," etc. don't describe enough the big picture about this sacrament. People fail to have a positive and human understanding of it as a result.

The heart of the sacrament of confession is conversion.

In the early Church, confession is public. Today, confession is a lot private. And oftentimes, it's not even face-to-face. There is a veil, which is an infantile thing. Communion by hand is now preferable because it's the adult way; face-to-face confession is likewise the adult thing to do.

With confession, we don't really say we'll never sin again.

No sin is unforgivable, except the two sins against the Holy Spirit:

1. Despair - there is no longer hope even in oneself

2. Presumption - there is the assumption that God will forgive one's sin

God is much, much bigger than all our sins combined. Penance is just a token of gratitude, not dependent on the gravity of our sin. The infinite mercy of God is such that the concept of limbo is no longer considered to be valid (it's never been an official belief anyway). Why? Because it's illogical, in the face of God's infinite mercy. For a child to suffer for all eternity for a fault that not even his in the first place is unfair.

The same is true for the former practice of disallowing the body of suicides to enter the church. And the belief that there's no salvation outside the Church.

God will never force us to commit sin through both despair or presumption.

Sometimes, we can have overly scrupulous conscience. This is not reflective of God's mercy either.

Also, because of the infinite mercy of God, we can't judge people. We can't judge those who committed suicide, for example, because we never know what the person thought at the moment of death.

Note that the Catholic Church never proclaimed anyone to be in hell right now. (Compare that with the practice of canonization, where somebody is proclaimed a saint or martyr and is assumed to be already in heaven.) Why? Because the Church believes in the infinite mercy of God.

Despite the possible gravity of sin, the sacrament of confession will never tell us to do something that will endanger our own life or dignity.

Once upon a time, there was a priest who had been ordered by the king in secret to be killed by throwing his body into the river. The reason? The queen had confessed to the king, and the king couldn't get the priest to break his vow of silence.

One day, when some fishermen were fishing in the river, they saw a strange light coming from down below the river. When they traced it, they saw the light to be emanating from the tongue of the slain priest who never broke the seal of confession up to the very end.

He is now regarded as the patron saint of confessors.

To Protestants, direct confession may work. Again, there's the infinite mercy of God that we have to consider. (In the US, confession is becoming a phenomemon.) However, confessing to a priest has a positive psychological effect. In the movie Dead Man Wlaking, the main character, when he is about to be executed and is too terrified for it, asks that, while he's dying, he be allowed to face the nun he has befriended. True enough, in his final hour, he is able to face calmly what could have been a terrifying thing.

Capital sins are not sins per se but situatons leading us to sin, and these are:

P-ride
A-nger
L-ust
A-varice
G-luttony
E-nvy
S-loth

By the way, priests also sin, and so they also confess to fellow priests/confessors. Priests can't absolve themselves, so there will be no cheating. :)


Comments:
PALAGES or PWELGA: pride, wrath, envy, laziness, glutonny, avarice
 
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