Not too long after the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the deadly shootout in Waco Texas that killed 76, Saint Mother Teresa came to the United States where she addressed the National Prayer Breakfast. She spoke words which we should continue to take to heart: “And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? … Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another, but to use violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” (she makes these comments starting about 14:50 in the following video)
The conversion of the world begins with each person here. Are we being vigilant over our hearts? What is our treasure? What we think about, where we try to find peace. That is our treasure.
“Divine favors are conferred not on those who sleep, but on those who watch.” -St. Ambrose
Our Lord has given us a great gift that challenges and helps us to be constantly vigilant. This is the Sacrament of Confession. It challenges us because to make a good confession we have to do self examination. We have to be aware of our sins. Of course the devil wants to blind us to our faults because if we are not aware of our faults, they will become bigger and bigger. In other words, sin blinds gradually. We do not want the devil to win! No athlete ever gets to the olympics by a haphazard training program, no goals, no examination of progress, no coach. No, an athlete has goals, he pays attention to the little areas of improvement, and he has a coach to help him.
A soul in love notices the little things, and frequent confession fills us with God’s love to notice and to overcome these little faults. So even if there might not be mortal sins to confess, frequent confession is a good thing. St Francis de Sales notes it’s not the beasts that cause us the most angst, it’s the flies! Saint Josemaria notes
“Remember, my child, that microbes may be no less a menace than wild beasts. And you are cultivating those errors and those mistakes — just as bacteria are cultivated in a laboratory — with your lack of humility, with your lack of prayer, with your failure to fulfil your duty, with your lack of self—knowledge… Those tiny germs then spread everywhere…” (The Forge, 481). Just because our hands don’t appear to be dirty doesn’t mean we should wait to wash them. Nobody here would think skipping hand washing would be a good idea.
Isn’t eternal life with God more important than clean hands?
Frequent means at least once a month. Frequent confession strengthens us, just like the athlete begins training in small ways and grows stronger. Confession helps us to overcome vice, addiction, and strengthens our will to do the good and to avoid evil. It takes humility to speak our sins and faults to the priest, who is the instrument of God’s mercy in confession. It’s not just about white knuckling our way out of hell. It is about cooperating with God’s grace. God wants to heal and bind up our wounds in confession, but why do we not allow Him to do that?
At the end of our lives we will be judged. For those souls who reject God, there is hell. For those souls who die in the state of grace, there is the purifying fire of purgatory to perfect the soul in order to enter into Heaven. We can see this in the different punishments given to the different servants in the Gospel. We can live this purifying fire of God’s love on this side of eternity by taking advantage of the Graces He offers us. Frequent Confession is a powerful way to grow in the perfection of love. A soul in love wants to live more and more for God. There is no such thing as staying still. To “remain still” in the spiritual life is to actually slip backwards. God vomits out the lukewarm (cf. Rev 3:16), and so we do not want to be rejected by God at our judgment because we have rejected Him through a careless life. What is our treasure? It should be the desire to be in Heaven. Frequent confession helps us to be loosened from the strongholds of other things in our lives that keep us from really following God. Apparently when people stopped going often to confession, the number of psycho therapy cases shot through the roof. There is a real psychological and spiritual connection. Evil gets a stronghold through the soul who is racked with guilt, and the divine power of our savior is not given its way.
The priest is never disappointed in a penitent, so do not be ashamed of coming to confession. The priest does not only think of that sin when he sees you. Most likely he has forgotten what has been confessed. What is more interesting is God’s grace. If it has been a while, come back to confession. If you don’t know how to make a good confession, ask the priest to help you. The effectiveness of the sacrament does not depend on the holiness of the priest, but of course we WANT and NEED holy, faithful priests. So please pray for us!
An ancient philosopher wrote, “The most difficult thing is to know oneself, the easiest is to criticize others.” That most difficult thing is precisely what St. Paul recommends: “Let each one examine his own deeds” (Galatians 6:4).
It’s not easy to stay awake. I need all the help I can get, and so do you. Remember always the words of Saint Peter:
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
In any case we should go to the Blessed Mother. She helped me to return to confession by pulling me back with the cord of love—the Rosary! I was petrified, now I love confession. I go once a week and sometimes more. The Blessed Mother will help you too. Go to Mary. Ask her to help you be on fire with God’s love and to put this great gift to work—frequent confession.