Hours before we were married, my wife and I went to Confession separately, wanting to enter into marriage as free as we could be. We confessed times when we gave away our love to individuals who didn’t deserve it and times when we ourselves failed to love as we should. I knew that through years of viewing pornography, I had given myself to so many other women, but that through God’s grace my mind and memory had begun the healing process.
On our wedding day, we wanted to come together without any reservation of our past and be intimately one. And that’s what Confession is all about. The word “Reconciliation” emphasizes a return to intimacy with God. The hint of spousal love is not accidental; it is exactly the point. God wants us to be present with Him in each moment with that level of spousal unity. Sin isn’t the mere breaking of a rule, but the severing of a loving relationship. Confession is the rightful movement back to the Divine Lover, who longs for our return. “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God,” said the prophet Hosea to his people in exile (Hos. 14:1). Time and time again, the Hebrew people forgot the goodness of the Lord, and yet God stood steadfast as only a lover could. Time and time again, we are tempted to walk away from the Lord’s goodness, yet God waits on our return.
Through the imperfect priest, we are given access to the Perfect Lover of our souls. Pope Francis stated that it’s not God who tires of forgiving us, but we who tire of asking for forgiveness. I know that I experienced shame and frustration with having to return to the sacrament week after week for issues of lust in my college years. I would go to different parishes, worried that the priests would start remembering me. Of course, I was missing the point that I needed to be held accountable and that God was always, always waiting there in the priest to receive me back into that intimate relationship with Him.
Now that I’m a parent, my children, of course, do things that try my patience and push me to anger. My anger with them lasts but a moment, and in the next instant, I try to console, reconcile and shower love on them. God the Father sees us with such infinite love that no sin we ever commit can separate us from Him. But we must be humble enough to say, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Go and Sin No More
The answer to the moral crises of our time is to live in holiness. In every time of trial for the Church, great saints have risen to lead the response, souls humble enough to admit that they are sinners in need of a Savior. At the end of each confession, we say an Act of Contrition, in which we assert our intent to avoid whatever leads us into sin. There is a danger of treating Confession as a quick car wash when we frequent the sacrament without committing to changing problematic behaviors and habits. This cheapens the divine mercy God offers us through the blood of Christ.
How serious are we about living this call to repentance? We must be “all in.” We must be willing to get to the roots of our habits and to see where our wounds originated. “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Mark 9:47). I have friends who have downgraded their phone to a “dumb phone,” so that they could be free of their endless temptations to lust, envy, and sloth. I installed software on my computer years ago to help me overcome pornography use and hold me accountable, for the sake of my soul and my future vocation. It’s not easy, and it takes time. But through our examining the origins of our scars, God is glorified and we can be transformed. Behaviors can be corrected and wholeness can be achieved with the assistance of the Divine Healer.
Pardon and Peace
“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). God did not send His only Son so that we might have more rules and live in fearful, neurotic guilt, but that we might have life in abundance (John 10:10). A life lived in the divine love and truth will truly set us free. I try to go to Confession at least once a month. St. John Paul II would go once a week—what the pope had to confess, only God knows! The holier we become, the more we see our selfish tendencies and flaws and see the great distance between who we are and who we could be. The great saints attest to this fact. But still God pours His grace out upon those humble enough and persistent enough to ask for it. Experience the healing God wants to pour out upon you. Return to the intimacy of God in this treasured sacrament of the Church. Confess and believe in the glory of God!
Bobby Angel hails from St. Petersburg, FL, and is now a campus minister and theology teacher at an all-boys Catholic high school in Anaheim, CA. In August 2013, he married Jackie Francois and the two have been sharing the Good News together through blogs, talks, and webcasts. They enjoy living by the beach, eating good food, swing dancing, game nights with friends, and being married. Their blog can be found at: www.jackieandbobby.com