The depth and mystery of Confession

“Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.” –Psalm 50

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more…”-Heb. 8:12.

Going through the mystery of Confession can be, as it ought to be, immensely healing, but it can also be very spiritually dangerous because its potential effects on a Christian soul depend so heavily on the spiritual frame of mind of the penitent during the time he or she confesses and shortly thereafter. It is in this crucial time afterwards that the grace of the Holy Spirit present in the mysteries of the Church, radiating through her sacraments, is so crucial to catalyzing real spiritual growth and renewal in the penitent’s heart and soul. If the penitent sinner does not fully acknowledge the ruptures their actions have caused, which have obscured God’s grace in his or her life, he or she will be blind to the healing grace all around and within them.

If confession is undertaken by someone searching after the righteousness and purity of heart of which Christ spoke in the Beatitudes, if he or she comes before God with the priest as their witness and confidant in a spirit of Christian piety and simple humility, then the counsel the priest provides, and the gentle grace and the loving whispering of God in the repentant sinner’s heart will heal, restore and illumine them.

When this happens, the words of Psalm 50 ring true in the penitent’s heart. God will “blot out [their] transgressions”, washing them thoroughly and cleansing them from their sins. When this happens, he or she will see Christ in all people, even in their foes who might hate them, and they will be inspired to heal any ruptures or schisms in relationships with loved ones. They will want to forgive others, and to ask those they have hurt for forgiveness. Their loved ones will see the love of God in them and forgive them, discerning their hearts to be fully cleansed.

As much as it is a true blessing for those seeking after true righteousness, confession often becomes for the spiritually blind or immature a vehicle for further gratification of the ego, of the deluded sense of self- it becomes all about the person “feeling better”, and people thus mistake a symptom of gradual spiritual healing and recovery for the intrinsic goal. This sad delusion stunts any real progress in the process of repentance, obscuring the necessary union of a repentant soul with a loving heart. Thus for those unwilling to change their ways, confession is essentially a gratifying ritual void of the true repentance meant to accompany it.

In this confused state, a sinner is likely to not only continue sinning, blind as they are to the grace of God and the need for real repentance, but to become proud or boastful in his or her transgressions. Then, truly, they are to be pitied and loved all the more. Even in this state of persistent sinfulness, we must not condemn our brother or sister. We must pray for them, for something truly dark lives in their soul, whatever idol they have set up in place of God!

We are all of us hypocrites in how we quickly condemn and judge others. We would serve our own salvation far better if we looked to our own sins, from which we can and should turn, and examine not so much what we do wrong, but why we give into temptations. What spiritual void or weak spot or illness in us is the underlying cause of our sin? When we can do this for ourselves, we will see the image of God shining through our brothers and sisters, even those immersed in sin, and then we can be unto them as Christ is unto us, infinitely loving and forgiving.

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One thought on “The depth and mystery of Confession

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